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Understanding Obesity

Obesity is a disease that affects nearly two-thirds of people in this country. It is rising at alarming rates, especially among children. People living with obesity are at risk for serious health conditions, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, sleep problems and overall lower quality of life.

Many factors can cause obesity, including:

  • An inactive lifestyle.
  • Genes have a strong influence on weight, as does family history. If one or both of your parents are overweight or obese, you have a greater chance of being that way, also.
  • Work schedules and time spent commuting, along with children's or other family members' schedules, can make it hard to find time to exercise regularly.
  • Diets that are unhealthy in both quality and quantity. Sometimes, people don't have access to healthier foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables, or the ability to pay for them.
  • Modern technology and conveniences can contribute because we don't have as many physical demands at home or at work.
  • Lack of neighborhood sidewalks, walking trails or safe areas for exercise or recreation.
  • Aging can cause weight gain if you don't reduce calories and remain active. For women, menopause also can be a culprit.
  • Hormone-related conditions, such as underactive thyroid and Cushing's syndrome.
  • Some medications like steroids, antidepressants and seizure medicines, can cause weight gain.
  • Stress, anger, boredom and other emotional reactions can sometimes cause people to eat more, and lead to overweight or obesity.

What causes morbid obesity?

Morbid obesity is even more serious than being overweight. Morbid obesity is a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or more, or 35 with medical condition associated with obesity (hypertension, sleep apnea, diabetis).
The disease of morbid obesity interferes with basic functions such as breathing or walking. People who are morbidly obese have shorter life expectancies (both men and women living with morbid obesity have 50-100% higher mortality rates than those with a healthy weight), serious health consequences such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, and an overall lower quality of life. Often, this disease makes it difficult, if not impossible, for people to work or socialize easily.

The causes of morbid obesity are multiple and complex. Despite conventional wisdom, it is not simply a result of overeating. Research has shown that often the underlying causes of morbid obesity are genetic, environmental, and social.
What is a co-morbid condition?

There are two definitions for a co-morbid condition: the presence of one or more disorder or disease in addition to a primary disorder or disease, or the presence of a disorder or disease that is caused by or otherwise related to another condition in the same patient.

Compared to women of healthy weight, women who are morbidly obese have a 400% higher risk of occurrence for type 2 diabetes, 210% higher risk for high blood pressure, 300% for coronary heart disease, 137% for stroke, 200% for both esophageal cancer and uterine cancer, 84% for kidney cancer and 50% for breast cancer.

The statistics are similar for men. Compared to men of healthy weight, men who are morbidly obese also have a 400% higher risk of occurrence for type 2 diabetes, 190% for high blood pressure, 300% for coronary heart disease, 200% for esophageal cancer and 84% for kidney cancer.