published Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Obesity FAQs

What is obesity?

Overweight and obesity are both labels 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.

When are you obese?

For adults, overweight and obesity ranges are determined by using weight and height to calculate a number called the “body mass index” (BMI). BMI for most people correlates with their amount of body fat.

* An adult who has a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight.

* An adult who has a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.

their methods of estimating body fat and body fat distribution include measurements of skinfold thickness and waist circumference and calculation of waist-to-hip circumference ratios.

What kind of health risks are associated with overweight and obesity?

* Heart disease, caused by high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure

* Type 2 diabetes

* Asthma

* Sleep apnea

Who is at risk for developing overweight- or obesity-related diseases?

To gauge someone's likelihood of developing overweight- or obesity-related diseases, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute guidelines recommend looking at two other predictors besides BMI:

* The individual’s waist circumference (because abdominal fat is a predictor of risk for obesity-related diseases).

* Other risk factors the individual has for diseases and conditions associated with obesity (for example, high blood pressure or physical inactivity).

What is a healthy waist circumference?

Risk for obesity-related diseases increase with a waist measurement of over 40 inches in men and over 35 inches in women

How do I measure waist circumference?

Determine your waist circumference by placing a measuring tape snugly around your waist. It is a good indicator of your abdominal fat which is another predictor of your risk for developing risk factors for heart disease and other diseases.

What can I do to prevent obesity?

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, people should eat a diet that:

* Includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products

* Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and nuts

* Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars

* Stays within your daily calorie needs

The Mayo Clinic recommends:

* Exercising regularly.

* Eat healthy meals and snacks with a focus on low-calorie, nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

* Avoid saturated fat and limit sweets and alcohol. You can still enjoy small amounts of high-fat, high-calorie foods as an infrequent treat.

* Know and avoid the food traps that cause you to eat. Identify situations that trigger out-of-control eating and keep a journal and write down what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, how you're feeling and how hungry you are. Look for patterns.

* Monitor your weight regularly. People who weigh themselves at least once a week are more successful in keeping off excess pounds.

* Be consistent. Sticking to your healthy-weight plan during the week, on the weekends, and amidst vacation and holidays as much as possible increases your chances of long-term success.

Is obesity in children a problem?

Yes. Obese children and adolescents are at risk for health problems during their youth and as adults. Obesity is a serious health concern for children and adolescents. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey surveys show that the prevalence of obesity in children has increase.

* For children aged 2–5 years, prevalence increased from 5 percent to 12.4 percent.

* For those aged 6–11 years, prevalence increased from 6.5 percent to 17 percent.

* For those aged 12–19 years, prevalence increased from 5 percent to 17.6 percent.

How can obesity affect a child’s health?

Obese children and adolescents are more likely to have risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease (such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes) than are other children and adolescents.

Obese children and adolescents are more likely to become obese as adults.

How do you measure obesity in children?

BMI is the most widely accepted method used to screen for overweight and obesity in children and adolescents. While BMI is an accepted screening tool for the initial assessment of body fatness in children and adolescents, it is not a diagnostic measure because BMI is not a direct measure of body fatness.

For children and adolescents (aged 2–19 years), the BMI value is plotted on the CDC growth charts to determine the corresponding BMI-for-age percentile.

* Overweight is defined as a BMI at or above the 85th percentile and lower than the 95th percentile.

* Obesity is defined as a BMI at or above the 95th percentile for children of the same age and sex.

How can parents prevent obesity in their children?

To help your child maintain a healthy weight, balance the calories your child consumes from foods and beverages with the calories your child uses through physical activity and normal growth.

Encourage healthy eating habits by:

* Providing plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products.

* Including low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products.

* Choosing lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils, and beans for protein.

* Serving reasonably-sized portions.

* Encouraging your family to drink lots of water.

* Limiting sugar-sweetened beverages.

* Limiting consumption of sugar and saturated fat.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Mayo Clinic

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