Health Risks Associated with Obesity in USA

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) National Institutes of Health (NIH) has estimated that, as of 2012, approximately 33 percent of all adults in the United States were obese. Furthermore, the Health Estimates estimated that another third of all adults are overweight. These estimates indicate that a large portion of the American adult population is at an increased risk for developing obesity-related health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of obesity among adults in the United States has increased dramatically over the past few decades. In 1980, roughly 15 percent of adults were considered obese; by 2000, this figure had nearly tripled to 36 percent. And, as of 2010, more than one-third of all adults in the United States were obese.

The CDC has also reported that the prevalence of obesity among children and adolescents in the United States has increased significantly over the past few decades. In 1980, roughly 5 percent of children and adolescents were considered obese; by 2000, this figure had more than quadrupled to nearly 21 percent. And, as of 2010, more than one-third of all children and adolescents in the United States were obese.


There are a number of factors that contribute to the rising rates of obesity in the United States. These include an increase in the consumption of calorie-dense foods and beverages, a decrease in physical activity, and an increase in sedentary behaviors.

The good news is that obesity is a preventable condition. There are a number of things that individuals can do to reduce their risk of becoming obese, including eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise. Additionally, it is important for individuals who are already obese to lose weight in order to reduce their risk of developing obesity-related health problems.

If you are concerned about your weight or think you may be obese, talk to your doctor. He or she can help you determine if you are at a healthy weight and make recommendations for how you can achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

What is Obesity?

Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems. BMI is a simple index of weight-for-height that is commonly used to classify overweight and obesity in adults. It is defined as a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of his height in meters (kg/m2).

A high BMI can be an indicator of high body fatness. BMI compares your weight to your height, and is calculated using the following formula:

BMI = (weight in pounds / (height in inches x height in inches)) x 703

Calculate your BMI by using our BMI calculator or learn more in our article about BMI.

Obesity occurs over time when you eat more calories than you burn. The body stores these extra calories as fat. Obesity is not just a problem of “will power” or eating too much. In fact, the cause of obesity is complex and it involves many factors:

Genetics: Obesity tends to run in families, suggesting that genes may play a role. Families also share diet and lifestyle habits that can influence weight gain.

Metabolism: Metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy. A slow metabolism means that your body burns calories more slowly.

Psychology: Your eating habits and how you feel about food can affect your weight. For example, people who eat in response to strong emotions like stress or sadness may be more likely to become obese.

Environment: The environment you live in—including your access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity—influences your weight.

Gender: Men are generally taller than women, have more muscle, and a higher metabolism. All of these factors make it harder for men to become obese.

Age: Children and teens tend to gain weight more easily than adults because they are growing. Adults gradually lose muscle mass as they age, which decreases their metabolism.

Pregnancy: Most women gain some weight during pregnancy. Afterward, it can be hard to return to the pre-pregnancy weight.

Certain Medicines: Some medications can lead to weight gain, such as steroids, some antidepressants, and seizure medications.

Health Risks Associated With Obesity

Obesity increases your risk of developing a number of health conditions, including:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Sleep apnea
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Gallbladder disease

Certain types of cancer, including endometrial, breast, ovarian, prostate, and colorectal cancer

If you are obese or overweight, losing even a small amount of weight can reduce your risk of developing these conditions.

Treating Obesity

The best way to treat obesity is to participate in a comprehensive weight-loss program that includes healthy eating, regular physical activity, and behavior change. This approach has been shown to be more effective than any single weight-loss treatment.

Your doctor can help you create a weight-loss plan that will work for you. The plan may include lifestyle changes, such as eating smaller portion sizes and increasing your physical activity. You may also need medication or surgery to treat obesity.

If you are considering weight-loss surgery, talk to your doctor about the potential risks and benefits of the different procedures. Weight-loss surgery is not a quick fix for obesity. It is major surgery and requires a lifelong commitment to healthy eating and regular exercise.

Bottom Line

The health risks associated with obesity are serious, but you can take steps to reduce your risk. If you are obese or overweight, talk to your doctor about a weight-loss plan that is right for you. With a commitment to healthy eating and regular physical activity, you can reach a healthier weight and improve your overall health.

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