Obesity is one of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States and now surpasses malnutrition as a cause of death worldwide. But being overweight is not always due to a lack of willpower or exercise. Sometimes your family history may be to blame. For some people, no amount of dieting or exercising alone will help.
Obesity Frequently Asked Questions
Difference Between Overweight and Obese
People who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of developing health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease.
If you have a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 30, you’re considered overweight. If you’re overweight, losing even 5% of your body weight reduces your risk of developing chronic conditions.
If you have a BMI greater than 30, you’re considered obese.
What Is Obesity?
Obesity is a condition in which the body stores excess energy in the form of fat. You’re considered obese if you weigh 20% or more over your ideal body weight or have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more.
Obesity is also categorized by severity:
- Class 1: BMI of 30 to <35
- Class 2: BMI of 35 to <40
- Class 3: BMI of 40 or higher
Temple Health BMI Calculator
Enter your height and weight above to
calculate your Body Mass Index.
Your BMI is
Your BMI category is:
What Is Morbid Obesity?
Morbid obesity is a condition in which individuals are at least 100 pounds over their ideal weight or have a body mass index of 40 or higher. Morbid obesity can result from emotional, biochemical and genetic influences. It’s a potentially dangerous condition because it’s a risk factor for other medical problems that may lead to disability and early death.
What Are the Most Common Treatment Options for Obesity?
Obesity treatments include a combination of diet and nutritional modification with counseling support, lifestyle changes and a consistent exercise program. Medications may also be prescribed.
In some cases, bariatric surgery may be an option. These include Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and gastric sleeve, also known as sleeve gastrectomy.
Are There Medications That Treat Obesity?
If diet, lifestyle modification and exercise are not enough, your doctor may prescribe medication to help you lose weight. These medicines work by either decreasing your appetite or preventing your body from absorbing fats from the foods you eat.
Before prescribing medications to help you lose weight, your doctor will consider many factors, including your current health, other medications you’re taking and possible side effects. Keep in mind that medications should supplement diet and exercise. Medications alone will not help you lose weight.
Are There Surgical Options for the Treatment of Obesity?
Both are highly effective options for losing a significant amount of weight, and keeping it off long-term.
Does Obesity Affect Fertility?
Obesity affects your hormones and can lead to insulin resistance. As a result, women who are obese have higher rates of menstrual dysfunction, including lack of periods or irregular periods. This causes problems in the production and release of eggs, resulting in infertility.
Obesity also affects a woman’s chances of getting pregnant through assisted means, such as IVF (in-vitro fertilization).
Does Obesity Affect Pregnancy?
During pregnancy, obesity puts pregnant women at risk for certain serious conditions, such as gestational diabetes (too much sugar in the blood) and preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy).
Obesity also increases the risk of miscarriage, birth defects and pre-term birth. Losing even 5% of your total weight prior to pregnancy improves your chances of having a healthy pregnancy.
What are the Health Problems Associated with Obesity?
Obesity can affect the body negatively in a number of ways, from heart problems to breathing difficulties. Many of the health problems associated with obesity include:
If you are obese, your heart has to work much harder than that of a person of normal weight. The additional stress on your heart may lead to heart disease, including congestive heart failure.
Cholesterol is often elevated in those who are severely overweight. This may lead to hardening of the blood vessels and heart disease.
An obese person, whose lungs are often not large enough to lift their heavy chest wall, can have trouble breathing, especially when active.
Sleep apnea, usually associated with loud snoring, is a serious condition that occurs when soft tissue in the throat collapses, causing a complete blockage of the throat. If you have sleep apnea, you may wake up with a headache and fall asleep during the day.
Obesity hypoventilation syndrome occurs primarily in those who are severely obese and is often associated with sleep apnea. Abnormal breathing causes toxic levels of carbon dioxide to build up in the blood. Symptoms include episodes of drowsiness or falling asleep during waking hours.
Being overweight compresses the spine, resulting in arthritis or a slipped disk. The nerve roots can also be irritated or compressed leading to sciatica, which is an intense pain down the outside of the leg. The hips, knees, ankles and feet also bear much of the weight of the body. These joints tend to wear out sooner, resulting in degenerative arthritis.
Joint replacement surgery may be needed to relieve the pain. Joint replacement surgery is often avoided in severely overweight patients due to poor results.
A large, heavy abdomen may weaken the valve on the urinary bladder leading to leakage of urine when coughing, sneezing or laughing.
The veins of the lower legs carry blood back to the heart and are equipped with an elaborate system of delicate, one-way valves. When the valves are damaged, the blood in the veins backs up, resulting in leg swelling, thickening and sometimes ulceration of the skin.
Obesity can cause certain female sex hormones to become unbalanced. As a result, women may become unable to conceive and develop ovarian cysts or irregular menstrual periods.
Increased stomach pressure from abdominal fat results in a high rate of heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which causes belching, heartburn pain and a sour taste in the mouth.
Page medically reviewed by:
Eric J. Velazquez, MD, FACS, FASMBS
November 25, 2019