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What Are Overweight and Obesity?

The terms "overweight" and "obesity" refer to body weight that’s greater than what is considered healthy for a certain height.

The most useful measure of overweight and obesity is body mass index (BMI). BMI is calculated from your height and weight. For more information about BMI, go to "How Are Overweight and Obesity Diagnosed?"

Overview

Millions of Americans and people worldwide are overweight or obese. Being overweight or obese puts you at risk for many health problems. The more body fat that you have and the more you weigh, the more likely you are to develop:

Your weight is the result of many factors. These factors include environment, family history and genetics, metabolism (the way your body changes food and oxygen into energy), behavior or habits, and more.

You can't change some factors, such as family history. However, you can change other factors, such as your lifestyle habits.

For example, follow a healthy eating plan and keep your calorie needs in mind. Be physically active and try to limit the amount of time that you're inactive.

Weight-loss medicines and surgery also are options for some people if lifestyle changes aren't enough.

Outlook

Reaching and staying at a healthy weight is a long-term challenge for people who are overweight or obese. But it also is a chance to lower your risk for other serious health problems. With the right treatment and motivation, it's possible to lose weight and lower your long-term disease risk.

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Obesity happens one pound at a time. So does prevention.

Overweight and Obesity Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Overweight and Obesity, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov.


NHLBI Research Featured in HBO Documentary Series on Obesity



Hear people talk about their challenges and successes reaching and maintaining a healthy weight on the HBO Documentary Films series, “The Weight of the Nation,” which premiered in May 2012.

The film series spotlights the science behind obesity and how it affects the health of the nation. Watch the series to learn how citizens, groups, and policymakers are working to make a difference in their communities. The films stream free on the HBO Web site.

To learn more about the film series and related public awareness campaign, including how to host a local screening go to www.nih.gov/health/
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July 13, 2012 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.