A healthy weight is important for a long, vigorous life. Yet
overweight and obesity (extreme overweight) have reached
epidemic levels in the United States. About 62 percent of all
American women age 20 and older are overweight—about
33 percent of them are obese (extremely overweight). The more overweight a woman is, the higher her risk for heart disease. Overweight also increases the risks for stroke, congestive heart failure, gallbladder disease, arthritis, and breathing problems, as well as for breast, colon, and other cancers.
Overweight in children is also swiftly increasing. Among young people 6 to 19 years old, more than 16 percent are overweight, compared to just 4 percent a few decades ago. This is a disturbing trend because overweight teens have a greatly increased risk of dying from heart disease in adulthood. Even our youngest citizens are at risk. About 10 percent of preschoolers weigh more than is healthy for them.
Our national waistline is expanding for two simple reasons—we are eating more and moving less. Today, Americans consume about 200 to 300 more calories per day than they did in the 1970s. Moreover, as we spend more time in front of computers, video games, TV, and other electronic pastimes, we have fewer hours available for physical activity. There is growing evidence of a link between “couch potato” behavior and an increased risk of obesity and many chronic diseases.
It is hard to overstate the dangers of an unhealthy weight. If you are overweight, you are more likely to develop heart disease even if you have no other risk factors. Overweight and obesity also increase the risks for diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, stroke, congestive heart failure, gallbladder disease, arthritis, breathing problems, and gout, as well as for cancers of the breast and colon.
Each year, an estimated 300,000 U.S. adults die of diseases related to obesity. The bottom line is that maintaining a healthy weight is an extremely important part of heart disease prevention. It can help to protect your health—and may even save your life.