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Obesity
Student Health Information Page compiled by: Divya Hariharan

What is Obesity?

Obesity is another term for being excessively overweight. How do you know if a person is overweight? Obesity is determined by comparing a person’s BMI (body mass index) to a BMI table that lists the range groups for underweight, healthy weight, overweight and obese. BMI is a calculation of how much body fat a person has based on their height and weight. If an individual’s BMI is 30 or higher, they are considered to be obese. Obesity is now considered an epidemic in the United States as well as a chronic disease. Although obesity is more common in older adults, child obesity is also a major health concern as more and more young adults are becoming overweight. If a person is obese, they are approximately 20% over their normal, healthy weight BMI

Sample BMI

Height Weight and range BMI Considered
5'9" 124 lbs. or less Below 18.5 Underweight
  125 lbs. to 168 lbs 18.5-24.9 Healthy weight
  169 lbs. to 202 lbs 25-29.9 Overweight
  203 lbs. or more 30 or higher Obese

What obesity can lead to

  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Mood disorder
  • Cancer
  • Heart Disease
  • Hypertension
  • Joint pain
Obesity is a major health concern because it increases the risk of getting multiple other dangerous health issues immediately and later on life such as those mentioned above. Here’s how…
  • Heart Disease: Obesity clogs your arteries with triglycerides (fat) and cholesterol leading to poor blood circulation to the heart and body. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), obese people are at a greater risk for having a heart attack or stroke before the age of 45.
  • Diabetes: Being obese prevents your cells from responding to insulin and leads to insulin resistant cells that cannot properly lower glucose (sugar) levels. Approximately 80-90% of type 2 diabetics are also diagnosed with obesity.
  • Psychological Disorders: Obesity has been shown to lead to psychological problems such as mood disorders, depression, eating disorders and low-self-esteem. Studies have found that depression rates are highest amongst the extremely obese patients.
  • Cancer: According to the American Cancer Society, obesity is linked to 1 out of 5 cancer-related deaths. A few of the several cancers obesity can lead to is kidney, pancreas, esophagus, colon and breast cancer in women.
  • Prevalence of obesity in United States
    Obesity Statistics:
  • Almost 13 million (16.9%) of U.S. children ages 2 to 19 are obese.
  • Nearly 70% (two-thirds) of American adults are either overweight or obese.
  • The prevalence of obesity is similar for both men and women (about 36 percent).
  • About half of blacks (49.5 percent), and more than 1 in 3 Hispanics (39.1 percent) and whites (34.3 percent) are considered to be obese.
  • Since the early 1960s, the prevalence of obesity among adults more than doubled, increasing from 13.4 to 35.7 percent in U.S. adult’s age 20 and older

What Causes Obesity?

Obesity and overweight are a result of decreased physical activity and consuming an excess amount of calories but expending a little. Obesity can be influenced by several different factors as well as a combination of factors such as environmental, cultural, genetic and behavioral.

Not all individuals who are overweight are overweight for the same reason. Some may be born with a higher risk of obesity due to genetic factors while others may be overweight solely due to lifestyle choices. Inactivity, unhealthy diet and eating habits, pregnancy, lack of sleep, medications, imbalanced hormone levels and other medical problems can all contribute to obesity.

Childhood obesity

Childhood obesity is becoming more and more common today than it ever has in the history of the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Childhood obesity has doubled in children and adolescents in the last 30 years. Gaining excess body weight early in life can have both immediate and lifelong effects to your health.
    Immediate Health Issues
  • Children have increased risk for cardiovascular disease. A sample of adolescents ranging from 5-17 years showed that 70% of obese adolescents were diagnosed with at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
  • Children who are obese are more prone to low self-esteem, sleep apnea and greater risk for bone/joint problems and can lead to early arthritis.
    Long-Term Health Issues
  • Children who are obese or overweight will normally also be obese/overweight as an adult and are at higher risk for adult related health issues such as stroke and diabetes.
  • Cancers are a major health concern for obese adults.
  • Many symptoms of long-term obesity will show during the adult life stage.

How to Prevent Obesity

Prevention of obesity begins with educating yourself about the causes and risks of obesity. There are many ways to prevent obesity and the early you start, the better!
  • Prevention of obesity begins with educating yourself about the causes and risks of obesity. There are many ways to prevent obesity and the early you start, the better!
  • Incorporating physical activity into your daily routine is the best and most efficient way to maintain a healthy weight. For example, choosing to take the stairs instead of the elevator at school or work will expend more calories
  • Maintaining a healthy and nutritious diet such as fruits and vegetables in substitution for unhealthy food high in fat content
  • Maintaining adequate sleep each night will help maintain a well-functioning metabolism
  • Limiting television time and other activities that require long periods of sitting/inactivity

Treatment Options
The most effective treatment for obesity is to create a long-term strategy regarding modification with diet and physical activity with your physician and stick to it.

A 5-10% weight loss can prevent diabetes and prolong onset of other obesity-related health risks. Monitoring your weight and regular physician check-ups also play an important role in maintain weight loss.

Resources and Support

Fighting obesity is easier achieved with a support group of family members, friends and even available support groups who can relate similar obstacles. It is important to remember that obesity is a chronic disease and one that can be prevented by take measures in early adult life. Listed below are available support groups and treatment centers for obesity.

Health & Wellness Counseling
Associates of Chicago
Treatment Facility
1200 N Ashland Suites 400 A&B
Chicago, Illinois 60622
Phone: (773) 819-292

The Chicago Center for Bariatric Services
Westlake Hospital, 1225 W. Lake Street
Melrose Park, IL 60160
Phone: (708) 763-6398

Northwestern Comprehensive Center on Obesity
420 East Superior St.
Rubloff Building, Suite 9-976
Chicago, IL 60611
Phone: 312-908-1892