According to the World Health Organization (WHO), overweight and obesity refer to excessive fat accumulation that impacts health. Overweight is defined as a person with a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to 25. Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or greater. Though there can be some deviations from the standard BMI, it is normally a good measure of overall body weight as compared to height. (Some body builders, for instance, may seem to have a higher BMI while actually being at a normal body fat rate.)

Knowing your BMI is important because there are certain health risk factors of obesity and overweight. 

Many of the first-world noncommunicable diseases are largely affected by obesity and overweight in individuals. Consider that 44% of diabetes cases are attributed to excess weight. 23% of ischaemic heart disease conditions are also attributed to these conditions. The WHO notes that “overweight and obesity are the fifth leading risk for global deaths.”

In particular, health risk factors of obesity and overweight include:

  • Cardiovascular diseases, which refer to a range of heart conditions that can impact the heart leading to heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, or high blood pressure
  • Diabetes, a metabolic disorder when the body is unable to produce enough insulin to manage glucose levels in the blood, that can also lead to skin or foot problems and hypertension
  • Musculoskeletal disorders, such as osteoarthritis, that cause pain and stiffness within the body’s joints
  • Certain cancers, including endometrial, kidney, breast, and colon cancers
  • Breathing problems due to the increased stress on the lungs, including sleep apnea or asthma

Obesity and overweight have also been associated with pregnancy complications, psychological disorders like depression, surgical risks, menstrual irregularities, and incontinence.

While these health risk factors of obesity and overweight do paint a grim picture, there are ways you can reduce your own risk in order to live a more healthful life. Talk to your doctor first to see if there are any health conditions, medications, or other factors that may be influencing your weight. You can also discuss with your doctor options for helping your manage your own weight, especially if you are overweight or obese.

For more information about the global incidence of overweight and obesity, as well as strategies for reducing your risk, visit the World Health Organization’s fact sheet on the topic. 

Image by Tony Alter via Flicker

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