Excess body weight: A major health issue in America

Modern life in America has led many people to eat more unhealthy foods, eat bigger food portions, and be less active. As a result, the number of Americans who are overweight or obese (very overweight) has been rising. About 1 in 3 American adults is now obese, and another 1 in 3 is overweight.

Being overweight or obese can have far-reaching health consequences. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excess body weight increases a person’s risk for:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Stroke
  • Liver and gallbladder disease
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Arthritis
  • Abnormal menstrual periods and infertility in women
  • Certain cancers

Overweight and obese people, on average, do not live as long as people who stay at a healthy body weight throughout their lives.

Not only are more adults overweight or obese, but more children are, too. Among children and teens, about 17% are now obese. This number is about 3 times higher than it was a few decades ago, although it has leveled off in recent years.

Some of the same health problems affecting obese adults can also affect obese children. These include heart disease risk factors such as high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, as well as asthma, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, muscle and joint problems, and liver disease. Obese children and teens are also at higher risk for social and psychological problems, such as discrimination and poor self-esteem.

Overweight and obese children and teens are more likely to have weight problems as adults, too.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: April 24, 2015 Last Revised: February 5, 2016

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