What is Severe Obesity?

A person is classified as being affected by severe obesity when their Body Mass (BMI) is greater than 40, or they are more than 100 pounds over their ideal body weight. Additionally, individuals who have a BMI of 35 or greater with an existing co-severeity (i.e. diabetes, hypertension, etc.) are also classified as severely obese.

Severe obesity has many of the same causes and some similar risks as obesity, but you will find that they differ mostly with treatment strategies. There are an estimated 9 million Americans who are affected by severe obesity in our country.

How Severe Obesity is Measured
Like, obesity, severe obesity is most commonly calculated using BMI. BMI is a measurement used to indicate obesity and severe obesity in adults. BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by his or her height in meters squared. An adult with a BMI of 40 or greater is considered obese. Additionally, an individual is considered severely obese with a BMI of 35 or greater, with an existing co-severeity.

Once you find your measurement, you will want to find your weight classification that is accompanied on the BMI chart or calculator. Knowing your BMI is a good starting point in addressing your weight. If you find you are in an unhealthy range, you will want to talk with your doctor to address this issue.

To calculate your BMI, please click here.

There is not a separate BMI chart used for men and women. Both sexes use the same chart to measure obesity. In addition, the same classifications of obesity apply to both men and women.

Risks Associated with Severe Obesity
Many obesity-related conditions accompany severe obesity. Once an individual is considered severely obese, these conditions become serious health risks. These obesity-related conditions also negatively impact the quality of life for individuals and their family members affected by severe obesity. The most common severe obesity-related diseases include:

      •     High Blood Pressure
      •     High cholesterol
      •     Diabetes
      •     Heart disease
      •     Stroke
      •     Gallbladder disease
      •     Osteoarthritis
      •     Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
      •     Some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)

For a complete description on each of the above co-severe conditions, please click here.

Causes of Severe Obesity
Severe obesity is a complex issue and has many causes. It is a serious disease that needs to be prevented and treated. Like obesity, the causes of severe obesity are widespread, but target three main contributors: behavior, environment and genetics.

Behavior
In today’s fast-paced environment, it is easy to adopt unhealthy behaviors. Behavior, in the case of obesity, relates to food choices, amount of physical activity you get and the effort to maintain your health.

Americans are consuming more calories on average than in past decades. The increase in calories has also decreased the nutrients consumed that are needed for a healthy diet. This behavioral problem also relates to the increase in portion sizes at home and when dining out.

While Americans are consuming more calories, they are not expending them with enough physical activity. Physical activity is an important element in modifying and shaping behaviors. The influence of television, computers and other technologies discourage physical activity and add to the problem of obesity in our society.

Environment
Environment plays a key role in shaping an individual’s habits and lifestyle. There are many environmental influences that can impact your health decisions. Today’s society has developed a more sedentary lifestyle. Walking has been replaced by driving cars, physical activity has been replaced by technology and nutrition has been overcome by convenience foods.

Genetics
Science shows that genetics play a role in obesity. Genes can cause certain disorders which result in obesity. However, not all individuals who are predisposed to obesity become obese. Research is currently underway to determine which genes contribute most to obesity.

What Can You do about Your Severe Obesity
When a person is classified as severely obese, deciding how to treat this condition requires a serious approach. Each treatment differs from person to person, as there is no one treatment for obesity. It is important to first talk with your physician about your weight, if you have not already engaged in that conversation. Your physician can best diagnose your weight issue and give you the options according to your health and lifestyle. It is important to work with your doctor in this journey.

There are several methods available to address severe obesity. You will find that treatment strategies for severe obesity mirror that of treating general obesity. However, it is important to note that treating severe obesity often takes a more aggressive approach, which includes bariatric surgery.

Behavior Modification and Physical Activity
Behavior plays a large role in obesity. Modifying those behaviors that may have contributed to developing obesity is one way to treat the disease. A few suggested behavior modifiers include:

      • Changing eating habits
      • Increasing physical activity
      • Becoming educated about the body and how to nourish it appropriately
      • Engaging in a support group or extracurricular activity
      • Setting realistic weight management goals

It is important to make a solid commitment to changing a behavior or lifestyle. Involve your family and/or friends and ask them to help you make the necessary changes to positively impact your health.

Increasing or initiating a physical activity program is an important aspect in managing obesity. Today’s society has developed a very sedentary lifestyle and routine physical activity can greatly impact your health.

You should consult with your physician before initiating any exercise program. Set realistic goals and make sure they are measurable. Involving your family or friends can also help to maintain your physical activity level and reach your goals.

Commercial Programs
Participating in a non-clinical program or commercially operated program is another form of treatment for severe obesity. Some programs may be commercially operated, such as a privately owned weight-loss chain. Counselors, books, Web sites or support groups are all ways you can be involved in a non-clinical weight-loss program.

Physician-supervised Weight-loss
Physician-supervised weight-loss programs provide treatment in a clinical setting with a licensed healthcare professional, such as a medical doctor, nurse, registered dietitian and/or psychologist. These programs typically offer services such as nutrition education, pharmacotherapy, physical activity and behavioral therapy.

Bariatric Surgery
Bariatric surgery is a treatment for severe obesity and should be reserved as the last resort. There are various surgical options to choose from when considering bariatric surgery. In order to qualify for surgery, individuals must have a BMI of 40 or greater, or a BMI more than 35 and an existing weight-related co-severeity, such as diabetes or hypertension.

Deciding if surgery is right for you, as well as choosing which surgical option is best for you is a decision to be made by you and your doctor.  To learn more about bariatric surgery, please click here.

To learn more about all the available weight-loss options, please visit the “Obesity Treatments” page.



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