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. More than 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
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Sleep apnea and breathing problems
  • Arthritis
  • Low quality of life
  • Depression and anxiety
  • 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.

An issue for children and teens as well

Not only are more adults overweight or obese, but more children are, too. Among children and teens, about 20% are now obese. This number is much 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 anxiety, depression, and social and psychological problems, such as being bullied and having 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 oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

American Cancer Society. Cancer Prevention & Early Detection Facts & Figures 2019-2020. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2019.

Rock CL, Thomson C, Gansler T, et al. American Cancer Society guideline for diet and physical activity for cancer prevention. CA Cancer J Clin. 2020;70(4). doi:10.3322/caac.21591. Accessed at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.3322/caac.21591 on June 9, 2020.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adult Obesity Causes and Consequences. 2018. Accessed at www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/causes.html on June 3, 2020.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Childhood Overweight and Obesity. 2018. Accessed at www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/ on June 3, 2020.

References

American Cancer Society. Cancer Prevention & Early Detection Facts & Figures 2019-2020. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2019.

Rock CL, Thomson C, Gansler T, et al. American Cancer Society guideline for diet and physical activity for cancer prevention. CA Cancer J Clin. 2020;70(4). doi:10.3322/caac.21591. Accessed at https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.3322/caac.21591 on June 9, 2020.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adult Obesity Causes and Consequences. 2018. Accessed at www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/causes.html on June 3, 2020.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Childhood Overweight and Obesity. 2018. Accessed at www.cdc.gov/obesity/childhood/ on June 3, 2020.

Last Revised: June 9, 2020

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