Overweight vs. Obese: What’s The Difference?

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    A stethoscope on top of a scale

    In 2011, African Americans were 1.5 times as likely to be obese as Non- Hispanic Whites. In particular, African American women have the highest rates of being overweight or obese compared to other groups in the U.S. – about four out of five African American women are overweight or obese.

    What’s the difference between being overweight and being obese?

    Being overweight or obesity are both labels for ranges of weight that are greater than what is generally considered healthy for a particular height. The terms are also an attempt to identify the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems.

    Overweight. Doctors usually define “overweight” as a condition in which a person’s weight is 10%-20% higher than “normal,” as defined by a standard height/weight chart, or as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 30.

    Obese. Obesity usually means a person’s weight is 20% or more above normal weight or as a BMI of 30 or more.

    Morbid Obesity. This means a person is either 50%-100% over normal weight, more than 100 pounds over normal weight, or sufficiently overweight to severely interfere with health.

    How can I determine my BMI?

    It is important to remember that although BMI correlates with the amount of body fat, BMI does not directly measure body fat, or account for a person being more muscular. As a result, some people, such as athletes, may have a BMI that suggests they’re overweight, even though they do not have excess body fat.

    Other methods of estimating body fat and body fat distribution include measurements of skinfold thickness and waist circumference, calculation of waist-to-hip circumference ratios, and techniques such as ultrasound, computed tomography, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). For more information about this, talk to your doctor or a gym trainer.

    Click here to determine your BMI.

    What are the health risks of being overweight or obese?

    Weighing more than is normal for your height can increase your risks of countless diseases and conditions.

    • More than 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight.
    • People who are overweight are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, high levels of blood fats, and LDL cholesterol, which are all risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
    • Deaths from heart disease and stroke are almost twice the rate for blacks as compared to whites.

    Is it possible to still be obese and still be healthy?

    There has been an ongoing debate about whether or not someone can be fit and healthy, even though their body weight is outside a normal range.

    So can someone be obese and healthy? According to HealthDay, a new study by Korean researchers says no – an obese person with normal vital signs, including blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels is still at risk for heart disease.

    The report was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

    In the study of more than 14,000 men and women, aged 30 to 59, those who were obese had more plaque buildup in their arteries, putting them at greater risk for heart disease and stroke than people of normal weight, the researchers found.

    “People have been trying to work out whether there is a group of people that are obese and healthy,” said Dr. Rishi Puri, medical director of the atherosclerosis imaging core laboratory at the Cleveland Clinic and author of an accompanying journal editorial.

    Puri also noted:

    “We have an enormous challenge at a public health and individual level in dealing with obesity-related disorders. Being obese doesn’t just affect the heart. Being obese means you’re more likely to have joint disease, psychiatric disorders and cancers,” Puri said.

    He added that, over the next couple of decades, obesity and its consequences will be driving health care costs.

    “Even if we find that these particular obese patients don’t have a higher risk of heart disease in the short-term, what are the many other things obesity does to your body?” Puri said. “Are we going to ignore that?”


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