Understanding Obesity

What is Obesity?

Obesity is a life-threatening disease characterized by the storage of excess fat on the body. It occurs, in simplest terms, when the amount of calories consumed by a person exceeds the amount of calories burned over a prolonged period of time. Factors of obesity are oftentimes multiple and complex, including everything from genetics to lifestyle to psychological and medical-related causes.

Degrees of Obesity

Obesity is most commonly measured by a person's Body Mass Index, or BMI, which estimates total body fat by dividing weight (in kilograms) by height (in meters). While being overweight poses increased and indirect health risks (see below), morbid obesity is the most clinically severe form, directly resulting in serious medical conditions. The different classifications of obesity are as follows:

Risks of Obesity

In addition to greatly increasing the risk for the top three disease-related causes of death for Americans (cancer, heart disease, and cerebrovascular conditions, including stroke), obesity is also strongly linked to such life-threatening diseases as:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure or 'hypertension'
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Endometrial, gallbladder, cervical, colorectal, and prostate cancer

Obesity also contributes to numerous other medical conditions, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Gout
  • Heartburn or acid reflux disease
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Breathing disorders
  • Depression
  • High-risk pregnancy & infertility
  • Back pain
  • Incontinence

Other Implications

Obesity doesn't just reduce the human lifespan. It lowers quality of life in ways that stretch far beyond health. From emotional turmoil to physical limitations to social implications resulting from both, obesity's long list of cons seems to go on and on.

Relevant Statistics

Unfortunately, to say that obesity is on the rise would be a huge understatement. And despite numerous social stigmas and misconceptions associated with the disease, the fact is that being overweight is actually becoming closer to the norm. Not only do one-third of American adults now fall into the category of "obese", it's been estimated that more than 57% of Floridians are either overweight or obese - and these shocking statistics are only growing. (See below for more related stats.) The good news, however? As the prevalence of the disease continues to increase, so do the insurance dollars and treatment options. And from the complexity of its causes to its multi-factorial effects, obesity is now being treated as part of a much bigger picture.

Did you know that...?

  • The treatment of obesity and weight-related medical problems now accounts for more U.S. healthcare dollars than any other single medical problem
  • Obesity is currently the number two leading cause of early, preventable death in our country, second only to lung cancer
  • After 10 to 30 years of being obese, a person who is 40% overweight is twice as likely to die prematurely as an average-weight person
  • 100 million Americans (60% of the U.S. population) are now overweight
  • 25% of American children are overweight
  • 60% of obese children will remain obese into adulthood
  • 10 million Americans are morbidly obese

Treatment Options

Non-Surgical Treatment Options

While surgery is proven to be the most efficient and effective component for long-term weight loss (and patients must first attempt less aggressive weight-loss techniques before surgery can be considered an option), some obese individuals are able to achieve and maintain a healthy weight using more traditional tools and methods. Such methods may include:

  • Weight-loss programs
  • Diet and exercise
  • Medications, including appetite suppressants
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Jaw-wiring
  • Counseling & hypnosis

Surgical Treatment Options

Bariatric or surgical weight-loss procedures are shown to be the most effective treatment for long-term weight loss. While Bariatric procedures range in type, technique, and level of aggressiveness, most work to drive significant weight loss by reducing the amount of food and/or calories a person can consume by modifying the size and/or functioning of the individual’s stomach. And although the amount of weight loss varies by patient, type of procedure, and several other factors, it's not uncommon for individuals to lose over 100 pounds within the first six months following their surgery. But it’s also important to understand that surgery isn’t a magic bullet, and continued weight-loss success requires a strong lifelong commitment to eating right, exercising, maintaining the needed mental and behavioral changes, and more.