Obesity is the term used to describe a high amount of extra body fat. It is a medical term and is not intended to be derogatory or offensive. However, obese people often suffer prejudice and unfair treatment at the hands of others who do not understand this complex and serious medical condition.
The most frequently used measure of obesity is the body mass index or BMI. This measure is based on a person’s height and weight and is a useful general guide for people to evaluate whether they are normal weight, overweight, obese, or morbidly obese.
People with a BMI between 25 and 29 are considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or greater is considered obese, and a BMI of 40 or greater is referred to as morbidly obese.
The rates of obesity are increasing in America and in almost all other industrialized countries around the world. The most recent surveys show that about 32% of Americans over 20 are obese. That is about 72 million people. Because obesity is associated with increased risk for many diseases and medical conditions, as obesity rates rise, so do the rates of other medical problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, sleep apnea, and some types of cancer.
Causes of obesity
There are many reasons for a person becoming obese. In general, weight gain results from taking in more calories from food than are burned off through activity. The apparent simplicity of this explanation fails to demonstrate the wide range of factors contributing to this imbalance and the number of these factors outside the control of people suffering from obesity.
Obesity may result from behavioral, cultural, environmental, socioeconomic, genetic, and medical factors. Each of these factors needs to be examined and addressed as part of a medical program seeking to help people overcome obesity.
Effects of obesity
The effects of obesity are as wide ranging as the causes of this major health concern. Obesity has become the second leading cause of death in America and its social and financial cost is severe.
Beyond the long-term implications to our society is the immediate personal suffering endured by obese people. Limited mobility, increased risk of developing serious medical conditions, and the psychological and social effects make reversing the trend toward obesity a major focus for the healthcare industry.