In recent years much of the developed world has become obese. Many researchers support the notification that there exists an obesity epidemic or even a pandemic. One only has to look around in a public area to observe people who are overweight and many are more than just overweight. Being obese causes many health and physical problems for the individual. And as time goes by, the person may develop heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Obesity may be defined simply as having too much body fat. Waist circumference and body mass index (BMI) are the recommended ways to estimate body fat. A high-risk waistline is 35 inches or larger for women, and 40 inches or larger for men.
Obesity is now recognized as a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, which can lead to heart attack. Some reasons for this higher risk are known, but others are not.
For example, obesity:
- raises blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
- lowers HDL "good" cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is linked with lower heart disease and stroke risk, so reducing it promises to raise the risk.
- raises blood pressure levels.
- can bring on diabetes. In some people, diabetes aggravates the other risk factors and makes them worse. The danger of heart attack is especially high for these people
A measure of obesity is provided by the body mass index. The BMI formula evaluates body weight relative to height. It's a useful, indirect measure of body composition, because in most people it correlates closely with body fat. Weight in kilograms is divided by height in meters squared (kg / m2). Or multiply weight in pounds by 703, divide by height in inches, then divide again by height in inches. In studies by the National Center for Health Statistics,
- 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.
Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30.0 or greater, or about 30 pounds or more overweight. Extreme obesity is defined as a BMI of 40 or greater.
Most obesity is caused by eating too much – taking in more calories than are used up in physical activity and daily life. When people eat too many calories, or too much saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, their blood cholesterol levels often rise. That raises their risk of heart disease.
A person can inherit obesity through genetics. Since 1994 there has been an explosion of research and a great increase in knowledge about regulation of the human feeding and satiation cycle. Eating too much relative to physical activity is a simplistic model and does not explain all obesity. Scientists are trying to unravel the neurology involved in human eating. Much is yet to be learned.
However, in the last forty years obesity in adults and children has increased significantly. This is probably related to the sedentary life style and the introduction of sugary, fatty, fast foods. These obese individuals can do something about their increased weight. Today one in three Americans is obese.
The more weight a person gains the greater his or her health risk. Thus the increased cardiovascular health risk for a mild obese person may be relatively small compared to the significant dangers posed by the morbid or the super obese.
If you are obese, do not despair – losing as little as 10 percent of your weight can bring about noticeable improvements in your cholesterol. Find a weight loss program that offers maximum support, and follow a balanced diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, with only small amounts of trans fats and saturated fats.