Obesity—having too much body fat—is pretty common. Today, obesity affects more than 1 out of 3 adults in the U.S. Being obese raises a person's risk of many forms of heart disease, as well as other health problems.
But, your risk isn't just about how much body fat you have. Where you carry the extra weight seems to matter, too. According to research, belly fat is of particular concern. In fact, even people who are not obese but have a large waistline show a higher risk for heart disease.
If you are obese or carry a lot of fat around your middle, take heart. Even small changes can make a big difference for your health. What is Obesity?
Obesity means that you are carrying too much fat on your body. This can hurt your health.
Obesity has been linked to:
You can find out if you are obese by calculating your body mass index (BMI), a measurement based on your height and weight. A BMI of 25-29 means you are overweight and a BMI of 30 or higher means you are obese.
But BMI is not a perfect measurement and it doesn't give a complete picture of your health. And we know that how your body fat is distributed can also affect your health risks.
BMI is often used in combination with knowing the size of your waistline. This is called your waist circumference.
In general, having a waist size of more than 40 inches in men or 35 inches in women raises a red flag and can be a concern. Learn how to measure your waist.
Recent research has found that having a large middle section can have negative health consequences, including a higher chance of developing diabetes or heart disease—and that's regardless of your BMI. Our waistlines often expand as we age. Excess belly fat can also come from medical conditions such as thyroid problems. Even people who are not overweight or obese can suffer the negative health effects of belly fat, so it's important to see your doctor regularly and keep your waist in check.
Small changes make a big difference!
Many people falsely believe that weight loss must be all or nothing. The truth is, every little bit counts.
Research shows losing just 3% of your body weight can lower blood glucose levels, and losing 5%-10% of your body weight can improve your blood pressure and cholesterol. If you weigh 180 pounds, that means dropping just 6 pounds to 18 pounds can make a measurable difference toward reducing your risk of heart disease.
To help protect your heart and overall health, make a plan to shed extra pounds. You'll be surprised how much baby steps—simple changes like opting for the stairs instead of the elevator, reaching for a healthy snack, walking just a little farther—can add up.
Many factors play a part in the accumulation of extra body fat. For many people, a combination of eating habits and lifestyle factors cause a gradual increase in body fat over time. These same unhealthy patterns can also contribute to other obesity-linked problems, like stress and depression that can, in turn, make it more difficult to eat well and exercise.
Key factors related to weight gain include: