Disease, Condition & InjuryTotal body conditions


(Overweight in Adults; Morbid Obesity)

Obesity – Definition

Being overweight or obese means your weight is above an ideal weight range. Excess weight creates an increase in the risk of serious diseases like heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes. One tool used to estimate weight range is called the body mass index (BMI). This scale determines weight ranges based on height. BMI levels in adults include:

  • Ideal weight range: 18.5-24.9
  • Overweight: 25.0-29.9
  • Obese: 30.0 or above
  • Morbid obesity: 40

Obesity – Causes

Overweight is caused by taking in more calories than we use. Calories are taken in through food. All activity in our bodies is fueled by calories. This include physical activity and basic body functions. Excess weight gain occurs when this relationship is not kept in balance. If this imbalance happens regularly it will lead to obesity.

Factors that can influence obesity include:

  • Genetics
  • Biologic factors (eg, amount and activity of certain chemicals in the body)
  • Medications (eg, corticosteroids, antidepressants, and antipsychotics)
  • Underactive thyroid
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome

Obesity – Risk Factors

Risk factors include:

  • Advancing age
  • Working varied shifts
  • Decreased activity
  • Sedentary lifestyle—Getting too little exercise and spending too much time in front of a TV or computer
  • Imbalance of excess calories versus decreased activity
  • High level of fast food intake
  • High alcohol consumption
  • Eating until full and eating quickly
  • Eating large portions of food
  • Not getting enough sleep

Obesity – Symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Increased weight
  • Thickness around the midsection
  • Obvious areas of fat deposits

Complications of Obesity

Obesity has been linked to health problems and quality of life issues such as:

  • Decreased energy
  • Heart disease
  • Increased risk of blood clots
  • Increased risk of stroke
  • High cholesterol and high triglycerides in the blood
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • Pancreatitis
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Gallstones
  • Cataracts
  • Joint problems, back pain
  • Increased risk of certain cancers
  • Increased risk of death from cancer
  • Gout
  • Infertility
  • Sleep apnea
  • Poor self-image, depression
  • Pregnancy complications, including high blood pressure, diabetes, complications during labor and deliver, malformations of the baby
  • Early death

Obesity – Diagnosis

Obesity is diagnosed by visual exam and body measurements using:

  • Height and weight tables
  • Body mass index
  • Measuring body folds with a caliper
  • Measuring waist circumference
  • Measuring waist-to-hip ratio
  • Water-displacement tests

Your doctor may order blood tests to eliminate the possibility of other medical conditions.

Obesity – Treatment

Obesity is difficult to treat. Things that affect treatment are:

  • Cultural factors
  • Personal habits
  • Lifestyle
  • Genetics

There are many different approaches to treating obesity. You are more likely to successfully lose weight and keep it off by using a combination of strategies, like eating healthy, exercise, counseling, and/or medication. Talk to your doctor or ask for a referral to a dietician . They can help you develop a plan that is best for you. Plans for weight loss may include:


Your doctor may recommend that you:

  • Reduce carbohydrate and fat intake.
  • Spread your calorie intake throughout the day rather than getting it all in a few large meals

Calorie Intake

The key to weight loss is reducing the total number of calories that you eat. Following a specific kind of diet, like a low-carb diet, is not necessary. It is much more important to choose a low calorie diet that you can stick with for the long haul. A dietitian can help you with your total calorie intake goal. This is based on your:

  • Current weight
  • Weight loss goals

Portion size (or servings size) also plays an important role. Using special portion control plates may help you succeed.

Food Diary

Keep track of everything you eat and drink.


Ask your doctor about an exercise program. Even moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking, can help you lose weight.

Add bits of activity through your day. Take stairs instead of elevators. Park a little further away. Limit the amount of time you spend watching television and using the computer.

Behavior Therapy

Behavior therapy may help you understand:

  • When you tend to overeat
  • Why you tend to overeat
  • How to combat overeating habits

When combined with diet and exercise, therapy can help you with your weight reduction.

Weight Loss Programs

Weight loss programs do seem to work for some people. Some studies also suggest that a partner or group may help you improve your eating habits and fitness.


Weight loss medicines, like orlistat (Xenical), may be prescribed. Orlistat interferes with the absorption of fat from the intestines. There are other medications available that may help with weight loss, but potential side effects need to be weighed carefully with potential benefits.

Medicines alone are not a viable option for losing weight and keeping it off. Some have serious side effects. There are also risks associated with over-the-counter and herbal products. Talk to your doctor before taking any of these.

Bariatric Surgery

Bariatric surgery makes the stomach smaller. In some cases, it will also rearrange the digestive tract. The smaller stomach can only hold a tiny portion of food at a time. Examples of procedures include:

  • Gastric bypass
  • Laparoscopic gastric banding

These procedures may be a good option for people who are severely obese who are having trouble losing weight by other means.

Obesity – Prevention

Preventing obesity can be difficult. There are many factors influence your weight. General recommendations include:

  • Talk to your doctor or a dietician about an appropriate number of calories to eat per day.
  • Follow an appropriate exercise program.
  • Limit the amount of time you spend doing sedentary activities. This includes watching TV or using the computer.
  • Talk to your doctor or an exercise professional about working activity into your daily life.
  • Ask a dietitian for help planning a diet that will help you maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if necessary.
  • Learn to eat smaller portions of food. Most Americans eat portions that are too large.

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