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
- 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
For an online tool that will calculate your BMI score, see the Additional Links section.
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.
How can I lower my risk of having health problems related to overweight and obesity?
If you are considered to be overweight, losing as little as 5 percent of your body weight may lower your risk for several diseases, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. If you weigh 200 pounds, this means losing 10 pounds. Slow and steady weight loss of 1/2 to 2 pounds per week, and not more than 3 pounds per week, is the safest way to lose weight.
Federal guidelines on physical activity recommend that you get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity (like biking or brisk walking). To lose weight, or to maintain weight loss, you may need to be active for up to 300 minutes per week. You also need to do activities to strengthen muscles (like push-ups or sit-ups) at least twice a week. See the Additional Links section for a hyperlink to these guidelines.
Federal dietary guidelines and the MyPlate website recommend many tips for healthy eating that may also help you control your weight (see the Additional Links section for hyperlinks). Here are a few examples:
- Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables.
- Replace unrefined grains (white bread, pasta, white rice) with whole-grain options (whole wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal).
- Enjoy lean sources of protein, such as lean meats, seafood, beans and peas, soy, nuts, and seeds.
For some people who have obesity and related health problems, bariatric (weight-loss) surgery may be an option. Bariatric surgery has been found to be effective in promoting weight loss and reducing the risk for many health problems.