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Understanding Obesity

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What is Obesity?

Obesity affects nearly two-thirds of people in this country, and it’s 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.

Causes of Obesity

Many factors can cause obesity, including:

  • Having an inactive lifestyle.
  • 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.
  • Genetics and family history. If one or both of your parents are overweight or obese, you have a greater chance of being that way.
  • 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.
  • Modern technology and conveniences that limit physical demands on us at home or at work.
  • Lack of neighborhood sidewalks, walking trails or safe areas for exercise or recreation.
  • Aging can cause weight gain if people 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 obesity.

About Morbid Obesity

Morbid obesity is even more serious than simply being overweight. Morbid obesity is a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more, or 35 or more in those with a medical condition associated with obesity (like high blood pressure, sleep apnea and diabetes).

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 percent 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.

Co-Morbid Conditions of Obesity

A co-morbid condition is either 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 percent higher risk of occurrence for type 2 diabetes
  • 210 percent higher risk for high blood pressure
  • 300 percent higher risk for coronary heart disease
  • 137 percent higher risk for stroke
  • 200 percent higher risk for both esophageal cancer and uterine cancer
  • 84 percent higher risk for kidney cancer
  • 50 percent higher risk for breast cancer

The statistics are similar for men. Compared to men of healthy weight, men who are morbidly obese have a:

  • 400 percent higher risk of occurrence for type 2 diabetes
  • 190 percent higher risk for high blood pressure
  • 300 percent higher risk for coronary heart disease
  • 200 percent higher risk for esophageal cancer
  • 84 percent higher risk for kidney cancer