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Obesity is an accumulation of body fat, usually 20% or more over a person’s ideal body weight. To avoid obesity and maintain a healthy weight you must balance the amount of foods you eat and the type of foods with the amount of energy you expend every day. If you are significantly overweight, your lifespan may be shortened by as much as 20 years. You are at a greater risk for developing diseases such as: heart problems, stroke, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, vascular diseases (any condition that affects your circulatory system, including your arteries and veins), joint problems, infertility, diabetes, gallstones, and certain types of cancer.

Ingesting too many calories, or too much saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol can cause your blood cholesterol levels to rise. This raises your risk of heart disease. Obesity is one of the major risk factors of coronary heart disease which can lead to a heart attack. Obesity lowers your HDL (good cholesterol) which has been linked to lower heart disease and stroke. Excess weight, especially in your waist area can cause serious health problems.

How is body fat measured?

There are two acceptable ways to measure body fat. One is taking your waist circumference measurement. For women, 35 inches or more is a high-risk. For men, 40 inches or more is high risk.

The second way to measure body fat is the body mass index (BMI) which assesses body weight relative to height. Your weight in pounds is multiplied by 703, divided by height in inches, then divided again by height in inches.

BMI values less than 18.5 are considered underweight.

BMI values from 18.5 to 24.9 are normal.

Overweight is defined as a body mass index of 25.0 to less than 30.0(consistent with U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans). A BMI of about 25 kg/m2 corresponds to about 10 percent over ideal body weight.

Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30.0 or more (consistent with criteria of the World Health Organization), or about 30 pounds or more overweight. Extreme obesity is defined as a BMI of 40 or more.
(The above statistics are from studies by the National Center for Health Statistics.)

The former Surgeon General, C. Everett Koop, M.D., labeled obesity as “the second leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States.”

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