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Obesity

Clinical Overview

Obesity refers to a weight-to-height ratio that is unhealthy, thereby causing an increase in health problems and premature death. Obesity is generally defined as being more than 20 percent over the ideal weight for your height.

Forty million Americans are obese. For people between the ages of 40 and 49, 30 percent of men and 40 percent of women are obese.

As you age, your obesity risk increases. Overeating and lack of exercise increase your chance of becoming overweight. For some people, genes play a role—children whose parents are obese are 10 times more likely to be obese than children of normal weight parents. (For more information on insulin delivery click here) Other risks include: diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.

An improper balance of calories consumed versus calories expended causes obesity. Although most people believe a poor diet and lack of exercise to be the sole origin of obesity, the truth is that scientists still do not completely understand all of the causes. Extra calories not used by the body are stored as fat, and obese people may expend less energy when at rest than non-obese people. In addition, obese people may find it difficult to exercise.

Many factors aside from diet and exercise may play a vital role in determining body weight. Scientists recently discovered genes that influence appetite and metabolism. It is unclear how many people are overweight due to a genetic predisposition to obesity or to an improper diet and exercise regimen. Obesity greatly increases the risk of many long-term diseases and early death. People who are 40 percent overweight are more likely to die prematurely as compared to someone who is not overweight.

Distribution of fat on the body varies according to the individual; gender is also an influence. Women generally accumulate excess fat around the hips and buttocks, giving their figures a pear-like shape. In contrast, men usually develop fat around their abdomens, giving them more of an apple-like shape. Persons with fat around the abdomen are more likely to develop many of the health problems associated with obesity. Doctors have developed a waist-to-hip ratio that can measure whether someone has an apple or pear shape.

Last updated: Aug-28-07

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