With the steady plumping of America - not to be deterred by South Beach, power yoga, or lyposuction - obesity is taking over as America's top health bad boy. But is an extra 20 or 200 pounds hanging off America really anything to be worried about? A couple of facts:
The Center for Disease Control uses the Body Mass Index (BMI) to say what's obese. Your BMI is just how much you weigh compared to your height. A BMI of 25+ says you're overweight. 30+ makes you obese. (One example: a person of 5'6" is overweight at 155 pounds and obese at 186 pounds.) To calculate your BMI, you can go to the CDC website. (They'll also explain the obvious problem with BMI classifying body-builders as obese.)
Causes of obesity:
In addition to the eating-too-much cause, obesity can be caused by genetic disorders, such as Bardet-Biedl syndrome and Prader-Willi syndrome, and diseases, such as Cushing's disease and polycystic ovary syndrome. (CDC)
Percentage of Americans who are overweight and obese:
- According to CDC (2000): 64% are overweight, 30% are obese. (If you have powerpoint, you can watch America slowly get fatter with this slide show from CDC)
- According to TFA (2004): 65% are overweight, 25% are obese.
- Percentage of children who are overweight (Note: CDC's definition for "overweight" is different for children than the one used for adults. See links for more info):
CDC says obesity is "significantly associated" with (CDC):
High blood pressure;
Health care costs
Health care costs attributable to obesity (1998) (CDC):
$52 billion, according to Medical Expenditure Panel Survey;
$79 billion, according to National Health Interview Surveys.
Number of deaths that "may" be attributable to obesity:
300,000 American deaths a year (HHS).
Note: Even though obesity is a national health problem, many experts agree that being obese does not necessarily make a person unhealthy. (Washington Post) In fact, a 2005 study found that being slightly overweight actually decreases your health risks (NYT).
Where the facts are from:
CDC - Center for Disease Control - government site
HHS - Department of Health and Human Services - government site
Other sources of info:
United Health Foundation's report on the state of America's health, comparing how states rate on 18 health indicators.
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