Your Weight and Your Health

Being overweight or obese isn’t a cosmetic problem. These conditions put you at a higher risk for serious health issues, such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, certain cancers, sleep apnea and more.

Millions of Americans struggle with weight loss every year – in fact nearly 70 percent of Americans are considered overweight or obese, and more than one-third are considered obese. With those overwhelming numbers, it can be hard to know where to begin your personal weight loss journey. Reaching a healthy weight is a long-term challenge for many people, but with the right treatment and motivation, it is possible to lose weight and lower your risk for related diseases.

A good first step – educate yourself on obesity, its causes and risk factors. Then talk to your doctor to determine your healthiest weight and how to get there.

About Obesity

It's important to understand the difference between the terms overweight and obese. Overweight refers to an excess of body weight compared to set standards. The excess weight may come from muscle, bone, fat, and/or body water. Obesity refers specifically to having an abnormally high proportion of body fat. A person can be overweight without being obese, such as a bodybuilder or an athlete who has a lot of muscle. However, many people who are overweight are also obese.

The most common measurement of obesity is the Body Mass Index (BMI). While your BMI doesn't measure actual body fat, it tends to correlate well with the degree of obesity. It should not be used alone for diagnosis but can be useful as a general guideline. Your doctor will distinguish whether or not you are overweight or obese based off of your BMI. In general, being overweight is defined as a BMI of 25 or more, while a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.

Health Risks of Obesity

How obesity affects your health depends on other factors, including your age, gender, how active you are and where you carry your body fat. However, if you are overweight or obese and have unhealthy eating and exercise habits, you may be at a higher risk for the following conditions:

  • Arthritis
  • Depression 
  • Diabetes 
  • Gall bladder disease 
  • Heart disease 
  • High blood pressure 
  • High cholesterol 
  • Menstrual disorders 
  • Pregnancy complications 
  • Pulmonary disease 
  • Respiratory problems 
  • Sleep disorders
  •  Some forms of cancer
  •  Stroke 

Changing your lifestyle habits and losing weight can significantly reduce your risk for these conditions.

Causes of Obesity

Obesity is not a sign that a person is out of control. It is a complex, chronic disease.

Many things can contribute to this condition, such as:

  • Energy balance - your body may take too much energy from food - more than what your body needs can lead to weight gain. This depends on your level of activity and your metabolism.
  • Heredity - you have a higher risk of obesity if it runs in your family.
  • Metabolic disorders - if your body's metabolism changes, it may affect your energy balance and weight.
  • Eating and social habits - An unbalanced diet, snacking between meals and too little exercise can all lead to obesity.
  • Psychological factors - Social and emotional eating are among the main causes of excessive weight gain.

Any one or a combination of these factors can lead to obesity. Inherited conditions can't be changed, but you have the power to change your behavior patterns and improve your own health and wellbeing.


There is no single approach to prevent or treat obesity. Talk to your doctor about your weight to discuss options, which may include treatment, diet, exercise, medications or weight loss surgery. Weight loss (bariatric) surgery consists of various types of weight loss procedures for obese patients who have not had success with traditional weight loss strategies, such as diet alterations, medications, and/or exercise.