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Overweight and obesity are increasingly common conditions in the United States. They are caused by the increase in the size and the amount of fat cells in the body. Doctors measure body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference to screen and diagnose overweight and obesity. Body mass index is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms (kg) by your height in meters (m) squared. Obesity is a serious medical condition that can cause complications such as metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart disease, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, cancers and sleep disorders.
An individual’s weight is the result of many overlapping factors, including environment, family history, metabolism (the rate at which the body converts food and oxygen into energy), behavior, and more. Some of these factors, such as family history, cannot be changed. However, other factors which are lifestyle habits —such as exercise habits and dietary choices—are factors in your control. If you’re not very active, you don’t burn as many calories. With a sedentary lifestyle, you can easily take in more calories every day than you use through exercise and normal daily activities. Weight gain is inevitable if you regularly eat more calories than you burn. And most Americans’ diets are too high in calories and are full of fast food and high-calorie beverages. Obesity can also be caused by certain medications (e.g. antidepressants, steroids, anti-seizure medications) and medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism and sleep apnea.
If you’re obese, you’re more likely to develop a number of potentially serious health problems, including:
When you’re obese, your overall quality of life may be diminished. You may not be able to do things you used to do, such as participating in enjoyable activities. Weight-related issues that may affect your quality of life include depression, sexual problems, social isolation, lower work achievement and in some cases, discrimination.
Whether you’re at risk of becoming obese, currently overweight or at a healthy weight, you can take steps to prevent unhealthy weight gain and related health problems. The steps to prevent weight gain are the same as the steps to lose weight: daily exercise, a healthy diet, and a long-term commitment to watch what you eat and drink.
When dieting, the main goal should be to learn new, healthy ways of eating and make them a part of an everyday routine. Quick weight-loss methods do not often lead to lasting results. Evidence shows that relying on diet aids like drinks, prepackaged foods or pills don’t work over the long term either. Modest goals and a slow pace will increase their chances of losing the weight and keeping it off.
If you think you may be obese, and especially if you’re concerned about weight-related health problems, see your health care provider. You and your provider can evaluate your health risks and discuss your weight-loss options. Your doctor can evaluate your BMI, waist measurement, and other risk factors for heart disease. Treatment depends on the cause and severity of your condition and whether you have complications. Treatments include lifestyle changes, such as heart-healthy eating and increased physical activity, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved weight-loss medicines. Book your appointment online to schedule a visit with a CareMount Medical primary care provider.