The Women's Journal

The Epidemic Of Obesity

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linda_everett_on11_sqBy: Linda G. Everett, MD, MHA

One hundred and four million adults
in the United States are obese;

nearly double the obese population just 25 years ago. Nine million are classified as morbidly obese, making obesity one of the most prevalent disorders of the 21st century, affecting almost twice the number of those affected by Alzheimer’s disease.

Body Mass Index

Weight classifications are normally defined by a person’s body mass index (BMI). This is calculated using the formula below.

(Weight in pounds)
BMI = _______________________ × 704.5
(Height in inches)

A person is considered at a healthy weight when his or her BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9.

Around 28 percent of the U.S. population falls into this category. A person with a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is classified as overweight. This is also sometimes categorized as pre-obese. One-third of the U.S. population is considered overweight. A person is defined as obese if he or she has a BMI of 30 or higher. More than one-third of the U.S. population is defined as obese. Severely obese people have a BMI of 35 or higher. Morbid obesity is classified as a BMI of 40 or higher. Currently, six percent of the U.S. population falls into this category.

Medical Consequences of Morbid Obesity

There is not a single illness that isn’t made worse by obesity. The extra weight can cause a multitude of adverse side effects on the body, including dramatically increasing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Often, those with morbid obesity suffer more than one health effect, creating a situation that can shorten their life span and negatively impact their quality of life.
Morbid Obesity can affect most organ systems in the body as listed below:

Nervous System: Stroke, Depression
Respiratory System: Sleep Apnea
Urinary System: Gout
Musculoskeletal System: Osteoarthritis
Immune System: Cancers (Breast, Colon, Endometrium, Kidney and Esophagus)
Endocrine System: Type 2 Diabetes, Hypothyroidism, Cushing Syndrome
Cardiovascular System: Coronary Heart Disease, Hypertension
Digestive System: Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, Gallbladder Disease, Fatty Liver Disease
Reproductive System: Infertility, Menstrual Abnormalities

Financial Implications of Obesity

Calculating the “costs” is more than just dollars and cents. In 2010, obesity-related medical costs were estimated to be $73.1 billion.
Obesity costs include:
• $12.8 billion annually in sick-leave
• $30 billion annually due to loss in productivity
• Individuals with a BMI greater than 35 represent 37 percent of the obese population but are responsible for 61 percent of excess healthcare costs.
• On average, people who are considered obese pay $1,429 (42 percent) more in healthcare costs than healthy weight individuals.

Causes of Obesity

Obesity is not defined by a single cause, but rather a range of contributing factors that include:
Energy imbalance: Energy imbalance is often the primary cause of obesity. To maintain a healthy weight, energy IN (dietary calories) and OUT (calories burned) must balance over time.
Genetics: The propensity to be overweight or obese tends to run in families. The chance of becoming overweight is greater if one or both parents are overweight or obese.
Inactive lifestyle: Research shows that more than two hours a day of regular TV viewing time is linked to being overweight or obese.
Lack of sleep: People who report sleeping only five hours a night are more likely to become obese compared to people who sleep seven to eight hours a night.
Health conditions: Hormone problems, such as underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), Cushing’s syndrome, and polycystic ovarian syndrome may cause obesity.
Medicines: Certain medicines including some corticosteroids, antidepressants, and seizure medicines may cause weight gain.
Age: We lose muscle as we age. Muscle loss can slow down one’s metabolic rate. Therefore, if adjustments aren’t made to lower calorie intake, weight gain may occur.
Emotional factors: Some people eat when bored, angry, or stressed. Over time, overeating can lead to weight gain and may cause obesity.

Obesity Treatments

Unfortunately, there is no cure for obesity, but effective treatments are available, including medical weight loss programs. These programs provide treatment in a clinical setting with a medical doctor assessing the patient’s condition, implementing an appropriate weight loss plan, and providing ongoing medical management. These programs typically offer services such as nutrition education, medically formulated low calorie diets, pharmacotherapy, physical activity, and behavioral therapy. Medical weight loss programs are designed to provide treatment to patients who are suffering from obesity with assistance, support, and management for weight and weight-related illnesses such as those explained above. The good news is that, even modest reductions in weight can help improve these conditions. A weight-loss of 5 to 15 percent of body weight has been shown to improve blood pressure and blood sugar readings, lower cholesterol, reduce arthritis pain, and improve overall quality of life.

Dr. Linda G. Everett is the founder and medical director of Everett Medical: Weightloss and Age Management. Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Age Management Medicine. Dr. Everett has extensive training and experience in Bariatric and Preventive Medicine. She received her undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins University, and her medical degree from Jefferson Medical College. Dr. Everett is on the medical staff of both Christiana Care Health System and Jennersville Regional hospital, and is a member of the American Society of Bariatric Physicians.

Dr. Everett’s office is located at 1284 Gap Newport Pike in Avondale, PA, across from the Lowes.
For more information, visit her on the web at
or call 610-268-5560 to schedule a consultation.