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Obesity has become a major problem in the United States over the past fifty years. In fact, 64% of American adults are overweight or obese. That is a staggering figure, especially when you consider all of the health risks and diseases associated with obesity. If you think you are severely overweight or obese, talk to your healthcare provider. Your provider will be able to talk to you about any health problems your weight may be causing, and he or she will also give you advice on an effective weight loss program that will work for you.

Many women think weight management is the key to body care and health. This should be a primary concern for you only if you are severely overweight or obese. Too many women are obsessed with losing weight and have a distorted body image or perception of their ideal body weight. For some people, those who are severely overweight or obese, weight loss is the way to better health. For other women, those who are thin, average or even slightly overweight, weight loss strategies can be damaging to health. Before you decide upon a weight loss goal or regimen, talk to your doctor about the appropriateness of your strategy.

The most common way of determining if you are obese is to calculate your body mass index (BMI). The BMI shows the ratio of your weight to your height. It’s based on a mathematical formula that divides your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters. The BMI is designed to show your percentage of body fat. Guidelines for determining obesity are based on a collection of data from a population of people representative of the population of the US. The chart below will show you your BMI. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is indicative of overweight, and a BMI of 30 or over is considered obese. A BMI is not the only indicator of obesity, although it does provide you with a good relative idea of your health and weight. Your doctor will be able to perform other tests, such as waist circumference measurement, blood tests and family history, to identify your health risks and obesity level.

Obesity and overweight can lead to serious health conditions, including:

  • Type 2 diabetes. Adult-onset diabetes is characterized by abnormally high blood sugar levels and can lead to further health problems.
  • Heart disease and stroke. Heart disease is when your blood and heart are not functioning normally and this can lead to congestive heart failure, angina, a heart attack and more. A stroke is experienced when blood and oxygen don’t flow to the brain, which can cause paralysis or death.
  • Cancer. Cancer is the rapid growth of abnormal cells in a specific part of the body that may spread throughout the body. Obesity is linked with cancers of the colon, esophagus, kidney, uterus and breast.
  • Sleep apnea. Sleep apnea happens when an individual awakens in the night because he or she has stopped breathing. This severely interferes with sleep patterns and may cause drowsiness and concentration problems, or heart failure.
  • Osteoarthritis. The constant pressure placed on the joints of overweight and obese people leads to osteoarthritis in the joints and cartilage. This can be characterized by inflammation and debilitating pain.
  • Gallbladder disease. Gallstones are clusters of solid material that form in the gallbladder, and are made up of cholesterol. Overweight and obese people produce more cholesterol and thus have an increased risk for developing gallstones that can lead to severe back and abdominal pain.
  • Fatty liver disease. Fatty liver disease is characterized by the build-up of fat in the liver cells, and can cause serious liver problems and inflammation. This is also directly related to type 2 diabetes. Fatty liver disease could eventually lead to liver failure.

If you are overweight, you can lose as little as 5% of your body weight and still experience dramatic health benefits. Talk to your doctor about the proper mode of weight loss, but slow and gradual pound shedding is always your best option. Fad diets and diet pills are generally unreliable and can lead to more weight gain, especially in severely overweight or obese people. Always remember to incorporate moderate physical activity into your weight loss regimen. Thirty minutes of moderate physical activity every day is recommended for optimal results.

Medical and clinical weight loss programs for severely or morbidly obese people are available. These programs are intense, but they are highly effective if done correctly. Sometimes gastric bypass surgery is a viable option if you are morbidly obese and are experiencing debilitating health effects due to obesity. If you feel like you have exhausted your weight loss options, weight loss surgery might be the option for you. This surgery is serious, and causes severe side effects that are uncomfortable and life-altering. Also, remember that anytime you undergo surgery, you run the risk of experiencing surgery-related complications.