The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted that since the mid-1970's, the prevalence of overweight and obese people has increased greatly for both children and adults. Data from two NHANES surveys shows that among adults between the ages of 20-74, the prevalence of obesity increased from 15% to 30%. The surveys also show increases in overweight status among children and adolescents. For children between the ages of 2-5, the prevalence of those who are overweight increased from 5% to 13.9%. For children between the ages of 6-11, prevalence increased from 6.5% to 18.8%. For people between the ages of 12-19 years, prevalence increased from 5% to 17.4%.
Overweight and obesity are both definitions for ranges of weight that are greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height. The terms also identify ranges of weight that have been shown to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems.
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The increasing rates of obesity are of concern due to their implications for the health of Americans. Being overweight or obese increases a person's risk of some different diseases and health conditions. These diseases and health conditions can include the following:
Not everyone who is overweight or obese experiences all of these health issues. The risk increases if a person has a family history of one of the conditions above. Where a person carries the extra weight is also important. If the extra weight is around the person's stomach, they might be at higher risk than if the extra weight is around their hips and buttocks. What follows is more information on conditions that are linked to being overweight or obese.
Cancer: Cancers of the breast after menopause, the colon, kidney, endometrium and esophagus are linked to obesity. Some studies have also reported links between obesity and cancers of the ovaries, gallbladder and pancreas.
Gallbladder Disease: Gallbladder disease and gallstones are more common in those who are overweight. In an ironic turn, weight loss itself - especially rapid weight loss or loss of a large amount of weight, might make a person more likely to experience gallstones. Losing weight at a rate of approximately one pound per week is less likely to cause gallstones.
Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is a common joint condition that most often affects a person's hip, knee, or back. Extra weight places additional pressure on these joints and wears away at the person's cartilage, which usually protects them. Weight lose may ease stress on the hips, knees and lower back and might improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Heart Disease/Stroke: Additional weight makes a person more likely to experience high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Both of these conditions make the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke increase. Losing even a small amount of weight can reduce a person's chances of developing heart disease or a stroke. Losing 5-10% of your weight is proven to decrease your chances of developing heart disease.
Type II Diabetes: The majority of those who have type II diabetes are overweight or obese. You can decrease your risk of developing type II diabetes by losing weight, getting adequate sleep, eating a balanced diet and exercising more. If you already have type II diabetes, losing weight and becoming more physically active may help to control your blood sugar levels. Becoming more active may also reduce your need for diabetes medication.
Gout: Gout is a disease that affects a person's joints. It occurs when a person has too much uric acid in their blood. The additional uric acid may form crystals that deposit in the person's joints. Gout is more common in people who are overweight. The more the person weighs, the more likely it is they will experience gout. Over the short term, sudden weight changes might lead to a flare-up of gout. If you have a history of gout, consult your doctor concerning the best way to lose weight.
Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea is a breathing condition that is linked to being overweight. Sleep apnea may cause a person to snore heavily, or to briefly stop breathing as they sleep. Sleep apnea might cause daytime sleepiness and make stroke and heart disease more likely. While one of the national health objectives from the year 2010 is the reduction of the prevalence of obesity among adults to less than 15%, current information indicates the situation is getting worse instead of improving.
Definitions of, 'Overweight,' and, 'Obesity'
'Overweight,' and, 'obesity,' are both labels; labels for ranges of weight that are greater than what is usually considered to be healthy for a person's given height. The labels also identify ranges of weight that have been shown to increase the likelihood of certain health issues and diseases. What follows are definitions of, 'overweight,' and, 'obesity,' for both adults and children.
Overweight or Obese Adults: For adults, overweight and obesity ranges are determined by using weight and height to calculate a number called the person's, 'body mass index (BMI).' BMI is used because for the majority of people it correlates with their amount of body fat. For example;
Bear in mind that although BMI correlates with the amount of body fat, BMI does not directly measure body fat. Due to this fact, some people such as athletes might have a BMI that identifies them as being overweight, even though they do not have excess body fat.
Additional methods of estimating body fat and the distribution of body fat include measurements of skinfold thickness and waist circumference, techniques such as computed tomography or ultrasound, calculation of waist-to-hip circumference ratios, as well as magnetic resonance imaging.
Overweight or Obese Children: For children and adolescents, BMI ranges above average weight have different labels such as, 'at risk of overweight,' and, 'overweight.' In addition, BMI ranges for children and adolescents are defined so that they take into account average differences in body fat between girls and boys, as well as differences in body fat at various ages.
(Information from WHO)