Obesity | Digestive Health | Loyola Medicine


Overview and Facts about Obesity

Obesity is currently a rampant epidemic in the United States, with about 93 million American adults suffering from the condition as of 2016. This problem occurs when you develop too much body fat and is different from being overweight, which simply means a person weighs more than they should (this extra weight could come from muscle or water).

Obesity is measured using the body mass index (BMI) scale. It considers your height and weight to determine how healthy you are. Normal BMI ranges are between 18.5 to 24.9. People who are obese score a 30 or more, meaning that they are 20 percent or more above their ideal weight.

Symptoms and Signs of Obesity

When you are obese, you’ll likely have fat deposits in your belly, arms, thighs and face. You won’t be able to see your ribs, and you may find it hard to get around or be active. You’ll also probably feel very tired despite getting a full night of sleep. If you do try working out, you’ll find it hard to catch your breath. Typically, those suffering from obesity develop other health problems as a result, including:

  • Back or joint pain
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Profuse sweating
  • Snoring
  • Stroke

Causes and Risk Factors of Obesity

The single biggest cause of obesity is taking in more calories than you burn. This can be caused by overeating, consuming food that is high in fat or simply not being active enough.

Of course, there are other factors that can cause obesity, such as digestive health issues, hormonal imbalances, and even your behavior. Some people are also genetically predisposed to obesity. Specific conditions that can cause obesity include:

  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • Menopause
  • Prader-Willi syndrome
  • Pregnancy

Tests and Diagnosis of Obesity

Simply calculating your BMI is not always enough to confirm a diagnosis of obesity. Your doctor will also take a thorough look at your health history, including past records of weight, exercise regimens, your typical diet and any family history of obesity.

Taking a measurement of the fat around your waist is also a good way to confirm obesity, as this is where fat is typically stored. If women have a waist larger than 35 inches and men have a waist larger than 40 inches, they are considered obese.

To see if there is a medical cause for your obesity or to make sure your obesity isn’t affecting your health, your doctor will likely perform one or several blood tests. These could include:

  • A cholesterol test
  • A fasting glucose test
  • A liver function test
  • A thyroid test

Treatment and Care for Obesity

The two main principles to reducing your weight are staying active and eating a healthy diet. Your doctor will recommend you lose three to five percent of your total body weight to start. They’ll help you with this by providing a diet plan that cuts down on calories, increases your fruit and vegetable intake and restricts sugar and fats. They’ll also recommend you get 150 minutes of exercise per week to maximize your weight loss goals.