America has become a nation of chronically overweight people. Today approximately 66.3 percent of American adults are either overweight or obese, and 32 percent are obese, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a nationally representative sample of the U.S. population. Between 1994 and 2004, the percentage of Americans who met the criteria for being overweight rose from 56 to 66 percent, and the percentage who met the criteria for obesity rose from 23 to 32 percent. Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 32 percent of Americans are obese. Why are these facts alarming?

Obesity, along with unhealthy dietary habits and lifestyles that don't include much or any physical activity, is the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States and results in an estimated $117 billion in health care costs each year. Overweight people are more likely to have high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol, major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Additionally, the results of a large study supported by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) suggest that excess body weight is strongly and independently associated with an increased risk of heart failure.

Weight Management

Losing as little as five to 10 percent of your body weight and maintaining that loss can significantly improve your health by increasing glucose tolerance and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Thus, if you're overweight or obese, you may need to seek medical help to lose weight as well as to maintain it.

The first element of treatment is changing your diet. Your health care professional should provide detailed guidance on the number and types of calories you should eat. As a rule of thumb, however, if you take in about 250 calories per day less than is needed to maintain your current weight, combined with an exercise regime that burns an additional 250 calories a day, you'll lose about a pound a week.

The second element to losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight is adding exercise to your daily routine and reducing the time you spend sitting. Exercise not only burns calories, it also tempers your appetite, boosts metabolism, improves sleep and provides psychological benefits, such as stress reduction and an increased feeling of control and self-esteem.

(This information was provided by HealthyWomen, an NCWO affiliate. For more information on obesity, click here.)

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