Obesity is a term that means you weigh at least 20% more than what is considered a normal weight for your height. If doctors tell you you're obese, they're not trying to make you feel bad. They're using a specific medical term -- obesity -- to talk with you about your weight.
The word "obesity" means too much body fat. It's usually based on your body mass index (BMI), which you can check using a BMI calculator. BMI compares your weight to your height.
If your BMI is 25 to 29.9, you're overweight but not obese. A BMI of 30 or more is in the obese range.
It makes you more likely to have conditions including:
Heart disease and stroke
High blood pressure
Gallbladder disease and gallstones
Breathing problems, such as sleep apnea (when a person stops breathing for short episodes during sleep) and asthma
Not everyone who is obese has all of those problems. The risk rises if you have a family history of one of those conditions.
Also, where your weight is may matter. If it's mostly around your stomach (the "apple" shape), that may be riskier than if you have a "pear" shape, meaning that your extra weight is mostly around your hips and buttocks.
Heart Disease and Stroke
Extra weight makes you more likely to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Both of those conditions make heart disease or stroke more likely.
The good news is that losing a small amount of weight can reduce your chances of developing heart disease or a stroke. Losing 5%-10% of your weight is proven to lower your chance of developing heart disease.
Type 2 Diabetes
Most people who have type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. You can cut your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by losing weight, eating a balanced diet, getting adequate sleep, and exercising more.
If you have type 2 diabetes, losing weight and becoming more physically active can help control your blood sugar levels. Becoming more active may also reduce your need for diabetes medication.
Cancers of the colon, breast (after menopause), endometrium (the lining of the uterus), kidney, and esophagus are linked to obesity. Some studies have also reported links between obesity and cancers of the gallbladder, ovaries, and pancreas.
Gallbladder disease and gallstones are more common if you are overweight.
Ironically, weight loss itself, particularly rapid weight loss or loss of a large amount of weight, can make you more likely to get gallstones. Losing weight at a rate of about 1 pound a week is less likely to cause gallstones.
Osteoarthritis is a common joint condition that most often affects the knee, hip, or back. Carrying extra pounds places extra pressure on these joints and wears away the cartilage (tissue cushioning the joints) that normally protects them.
Weight loss can ease stress on the knees, hips, and lower back and may improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Gout is a disease that affects the joints. It happens when you have too much uric acid in your blood. The extra uric acid can form crystals that deposit in the joints.
Gout is more common in overweight people. The more you weigh, the more likely you are to get gout.
Over the short term, sudden weight changes may lead to a flare-up of gout. If you have a history of gout, check with your doctor for the best way to lose weight.
Sleep apnea is a breathing condition that's linked to being overweight.
Sleep apnea can cause a person to snore heavily and to briefly stop breathing during sleep. Sleep apnea may cause daytime sleepiness and make heart disease and stroke more likely.
Weight loss often improves sleep apnea.