Health Risks of Being Overweight

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Overweight and obesity may increase the risk of many health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers. If you are pregnant, excess weight may lead to short- and long-term health problems for you and your child.

This fact sheet tells you more about the links between excess weight and many health conditions. It also explains how reaching and maintaining a normal weight may help you and your loved ones stay healthier as you grow older.

What kinds of health problems are linked to overweight and obesity?

Excess weight may increase the risk for many health problems, including

  • type 2 diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease and strokes
  • certain types of cancer
  • sleep apnea
  • osteoarthritis
  • fatty liver disease
  • kidney disease
  • pregnancy problems, such as high blood sugar during pregnancy, high blood pressure, and increased risk for cesarean delivery (C-section)

How can I tell if I weigh too much?

Gaining a few pounds during the year may not seem like a big deal. But these pounds can add up over time. How can you tell if your weight could increase your chances of developing health problems? Knowing two numbers may help you understand your risk: your body mass index (BMI) score and your waist size in inches.

Body Mass Index

The BMI is one way to tell whether you are at a normal weight, are overweight, or have obesity. It measures your weight in relation to your height and provides a score to help place you in a category:

  • normal weight: BMI of 18.5 to 24.9
  • overweight: BMI of 25 to 29.9
  • obesity: BMI of 30 or higher

Waist Size

Another important number to know is your waist size in inches. Having too much fat around your waist may increase health risks even more than having fat in other parts of your body. Women with a waist size of more than 35 inches and men with a waist size of more than 40 inches may have higher chances of developing diseases related to obesity.

Know your health numbers

Below are some numbers to aim for.1,2

Measure Target
Target BMI 18.5-24.9
Waist Size Men: less than 40 in.
Women: less than 35 in.
Blood Pressure 120/80 mm Hg or less
LDL (bad cholesterol) Less than 100 mg/dl
HDL (good cholesterol) Men: more than 40 mg/dl
Women: more than 50 mg/dl
Triglycerides Less than 150 mg/dl
Blood sugar (fasting) Less than 100 mg/dl

Type 2 Diabetes

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a disease in which blood sugar levels are above normal. High blood sugar is a major cause of heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, amputation, and blindness. In 2009, diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.3

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes. Family history and genes play a large role in type 2 diabetes. Other risk factors include a low activity level, poor diet, and excess body weight around the waist. In the United States,

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Overweight & Obesity Statistics | NIDDK

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This content describes the prevalence of overweight and obesity in the United States.

Defining Overweight and Obesity

A person whose weight is higher than what is considered as a normal weight adjusted for height is described as being overweight or having obesity.1

Fast Facts

According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2013–20142,3,4,5

  • More than 1 in 3 adults were considered to be overweight.
  • More than 2 in 3 adults were considered to be overweight or have obesity.
  • More than 1 in 3 adults were considered to have obesity.
  • About 1 in 13 adults were considered to have extreme obesity.
  • About 1 in 6 children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 were considered to have obesity.

Using Body Mass Index (BMI) to Estimate Overweight and Obesity

BMI is the tool most commonly used to estimate and screen for overweight and obesity in adults and children. BMI is defined as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared. For most people, BMI is related to the amount of fat in their bodies, which can raise the risk of many health problems. A health care professional can determine if a person’s health may be at risk because of his or her weight.

The tables below show BMI ranges for overweight and obesity.

Adults

BMI of Adults Ages 20 and Older
BMI Classification
18.5 to 24.9 Normal weight
25 to 29.9 Overweight
30+ Obesity (including extreme obesity)
40+ Extreme obesity

An online tool for gauging the BMIs of adults can be found at: https://www.cdc.gov

Children and Adolescents

BMI of Children and Adolescents Ages 2 to 19
BMI Classification
At or above the 85th percentile on the CDC growth charts Overweight or obesity
At or above the 95th percentile on the CDC growth charts Obesity (including extreme obesity)
At or above 120 percent of the 95th percentile on the CDC growth charts Extreme obesity

Children grow at different rates at different times, so it is not always easy to tell if a child is overweight. The CDC BMI growth charts are used to compare a child’s BMI with other children of the same sex and age. It is important that a child’s health care provider evaluates a child’s BMI, growth, and potential health risks due to excess body weight. An online tool for gauging the BMIs of children and teens can be found at: https://nccd.cdc.gov/dnpabmi/Calculator.aspx

Causes and Health Consequences of Overweight and Obesity

Factors that may contribute to weight gain among adults and youth include genes, eating habits, physical inactivity, TV, computer, phone, and other screen time, sleep habits, medical conditions or medications, and where and how people live, including their access to healthy foods and safe places to be active.1,6

Overweight and obesity are risk factors for many health problems such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, joint problems, and gallstones, among other conditions.1,6,7

For more information on the causes and health consequences of overweight and obesity, please visit NIDDK’’s

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