An excess proportion of total body fat is known as obesity.  When someone’s weight is 20% or more above normal weight, the person is considered to be obese.  Body mass index, or BMI, is the most common measure of obesity.5  Body fat is not directly measured when calculating BMI, so some people, for example muscular athletes, may have a BMI in the obese category even though they do not have excess body weight.1

For that reason, it is important to note that BMI is not the only way to calculate for obesity.  Waist to height ratio and skinfold body fat testing are examples of other ways to measure for obesity.  One of the core symptoms of insulin resistance syndrome and cardiovascular disease is abdominal obesity.  For men the danger waist measurement is 40+ inches and for women central obesity is signaled by a waist circumference of about 35+ inches. 4  There are many different tools or websites that are available, which will allow you to input your personal data for results of the tests mentioned as well as others

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Most often, obesity occurs when you burn fewer calories than you take in.  Some of the other causes of obesity can be inactivity, poor or unhealthy eating habits and diet, pregnancy, lack of sleep, certain medications, and specific medical problems such as Prader Willi, Cushing’s syndrome, or Polycystic ovary syndrome. 1

The following are some obesity-related health complications:


  • There is an increased chance of 9 to 13% of developing arthritis, for every 2 pound increase in weight.3

Breathing Difficulties

  • It is more common for obese individuals to have sleep apnea.3
  • There is a higher prevalence of asthma associated with obesity.3


  • There is an associated increased risk for certain cancers, including endometrial, colon, gall bladder, prostate, kidney, and post- menopausal breast cancer for those individuals that are overweight or obese.3
  • From age 18 to midlife, women who gain more than 20 pounds double their risk of postmenopausal breast cancer compared to women whose weight remains stable.3

Complications specific to Children & Adolescents

  • Child & adolescent inactivityOverweight children and adolescents have an increased occurrence of cardiac risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, compared to those with a healthy weight.3
  • There has been a dramatic increase in children and adolescents who have type two diabetes, which has been linked to obesity.3
  • There is a 70% chance of becoming an overweight or obese adult if you are an overweight adolescent, and if a parent is overweight or obese, this risk increases to 80%.3
  • There is a significant amount of social discrimination that occurs and is an immediate consequence of being an overweight adolescent.3

Chronic Venous Insufficiency

  • Obesity is an important risk factor for chronic venous insufficiency, which is when the veins cannot pump enough oxygen-poor blood back to the heart. Raised blood pressure, a sedentary lifestyle, and musculoskeletal problems are all complications of obesity. These can lead to the development of chronic venous insufficiency, which can hamper mobility and use of leg muscles. Occurrence of lower limb ischemia and other vascular disorders caused by inadequate blood flow to the extremities is increased in obese patients.4


  • A weight gain of 11 to 18 pounds increases a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes to twice that of individuals who have not gained weight.3
  • Greater than 80% of people with diabetes are overweight or obese.3

Fatty Liver Disease and Gallbladder Disease

  • Insulin resistance is a metabolic disorder in which cells become insensitive to the effects of insulin. This is the main cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver. Obesity, in particular central abdominal obesity, is one of the most common risk factors for insulin resistance. Studies indicate a correlation between body mass index (BMI) and degree of liver damage. The worse the liver damage the higher the BMI.4
  • There is approximately 3 times greater risk for gallstones in obese individuals than in non-obese individuals. A rise in body mass index (BMI) appears to correlate with the risk of symptomatic gallstones.4

Heart Disease

  • In individuals with a BMI >25, there is an increased risk for heart disease.3
  • In adults that are obese, high blood pressure is twice as common compared to those at a healthy weight.3
  • High triglycerides and decreased HDL cholesterol are associated with obesity.3
  • An important pre-condition of many strokes is atherosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries, which may lead to the formation of an arterial blood clot. Lack of exercise, high cholesterol, smoking, and high blood pressure all accelerate atherosclerosis. A high fat diet, lack of exercise, and raised blood pressure are frequently associated with obesity, especially morbid obesity which is now an important secondary risk factor for stroke.4

Obesity crisis

Premature Death

  • There is an increase in the risk of death even with a moderate weight excess of 10 to 20 pounds, specifically among adults aged 30 to 64 years.3
  • Compared to individuals with a healthy weight, obese individuals with a BMI > 30 have a 50 to 100% increased risk of premature death from all causes.3

Reproductive Complications

  • There is a 10 times increase in risk for maternal high blood pressure and an increased risk of death for both the baby and mother if one is obese during pregnancy.3
  • Gestational diabetes and difficulties with labor and delivery are more likely to occur in women who are obese during pregnancy.3
  • There is an association with infertility and irregular menstrual cycles with obesity in premenopausal women.3

Quality of Life

  • Quality of life can also be affected by obesity, including issues such as depression, shame, physical discomfort, disability, social isolation, lack of participation in family activities, and discrimination. One of the most painful parts of obesity may be the emotional suffering that can occur.4


1. Mayo Clinic. (2011, May 6). Obesity. Retrieved January 11, 2012, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/obesity/DS00314

2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2011, January 11). National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute – National Institutes of Health: Calculate your BMI Index. Retrieved January 11, 2012, from http://www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi/

3. US. Department of Health and Human Services. (2007, January 11). Office of the Surgeon General- Overweight and Obesity: Health Consequences. Retrieved January 11, 2012, from http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/topics/obesity/calltoaction/fact_consequences.htm

4. Anne Collins. (2007, January 1). Health Risks of Obesity: Health Complications: Dangers for Mild and Severe Obese Patients. Retrieved January 11, 2012, from http://www.annecollins.com/obesity/risks-of-obesity.htm

5. WebMD. (2011, February 9). Healthy Eating & Diet – Obesity. Retrieved February 1, 2012, from http://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/what-is-obesity