Understanding Morbid Obesity

Morbid obesity is a chronic medical condition. A person who is morbidly obese:

  • Is more than 100 pounds over his or her ideal body weight
  • Has a body mass index (BMI) over 40 (or over 35 and is experiencing severe negative health effects related to obesity, such as high blood pressure or diabetes)

The health effects of obesity are dire. Some of the most common conditions that may accompany obesity include:

In addition to these medical conditions, morbid obesity is associated with an increased risk for a shorter life expectancy. Even more, people whose weight exceeds twice their ideal body weight are twice as likely to suffer premature death compared to people who aren't obese—and their risk of death from diabetes or heart attack is five to seven times greater.

The social, psychological and economic effects of morbid obesity are also very real and can be especially devastating to a person's well-being.

Am I morbidly obese?

The tools below will tell you your BMI and ideal body weight. These numbers are just a small part of understanding how your weight affects your health. Talk to your primary care provider to learn more about your current health status.

Why am I obese?

Despite conventional wisdom, obesity is not simply a result of overeating. Many causes may be contributing to your weight problem, including certain genetic, environmental and metabolic factors as well as eating disorders.

Research has shown that, in many cases, a significant underlying cause of morbid obesity is genetics. Just as some genes determine eye color or height, some may affect your appetite, ability to feel full, metabolism, fat-storing ability and even natural activity level.

Environmental and genetic factors work together. For example, if you are genetically predisposed to obesity, your lifestyle and environment may make controlling your weight more difficult. Fast food, long days sitting at a desk and suburban neighborhoods that require driving over walking all magnify hereditary factors such as metabolism and efficient fat storage.

What treatments exist for morbid obesity?

Studies have shown that once a person is morbidly obese, dieting and exercising have a limited ability to provide effective long-term relief. Until researchers learn more about obesity, those who are morbidly obese must work every day to control excess weight.

Treatment options for morbid obesity include medically managed diet and exercise programs and weight loss surgery.

These treatment options do not cure morbid obesity. They are only attempts to reduce the effects of excessive weight and alleviate the serious physical, emotional and social consequences of the disease.

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