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According to the Centers for Disease Control, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States during the past 20 years. In 2008, of the fifty states only Colorado had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. Thirty-two states had a prevalence equal to or greater than 25%; six of these states (Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia ) had a prevalence of obesity equal to or greater than 30%. Obesity is not just about how you look, it is also about how you feel and the health risks that you incur when you are obese. Obesity has been linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Obesity has also been linked to increased rates of certain types of cancer. Cancer of the esophagus has been associated with obesity. Obese men are more likely to develop cancer of the colon, rectum, or prostate than are non obese men. Obese women are more likely to develop cancer of the gall bladder, uterus, cervix or ovaries than are non obese women. But what is obesity? A person is obese if he or she has an excessive amount of body fat. One can be overweight without being obese. Most health care professionals agree that men with more than 25 percent body fat and women with more than 30 percent body fat are considered obese. Physicians generally agree that the more obese a person is, the more likely he or she is to develop health problems. Extremely obese people know that they are obese, but many people may be obese and not realize it. So many of us carry excess fat that we don't notice how fat we all are compared to the way we were 20 years ago. To determine if you are obese you must measure your body fat percentage. There are accurate ways to determine a person's percentage of body fat, but they are impractical for the average person. When I went to college, my body fat was measured using the caliper method. In this method skin folds are measured with calipers at different points on the body. Your physician may be able to measure your percentage of fat using the caliber method. Another method of determining body fat percentages is with the Body Mass Index or BMI. The BMI is supposed to indicate the percentage of body fat that you have. A BMI of 25 or more for men is considered obese, and a BMI of 30 or more for women indicates obesity. The BMI has its limitations because it does not measure body fat directly. It is based on height and weight, so a very muscular professional athlete may have a BMI that indicates obesity when in fact he is not obese. If you are not obese, then you should make certain that you are in a frame of mind to prevent becoming obese. You must always be mindful of your weight as you age. It is very easy to gain weight without noticing until you have put on quite a number of pounds of fat. You must remain vigilant. If you are already obese, then you should start right away to lose weight. Losing just a small percentage of your excess body fat can reduce your risk factors for chronic disease.

Weight control is easier for some of us than others, but it becomes more difficult for all of us as we age. Even if you are currently thin, you must remain aware of your life style so that you keep a healthy weight throughout your life. Modest weight gain every year over a period of years can easily lead to obesity, so cultivate a habit of eating the right foods and remaining active now, and you won't have the battle with excess fat later in life. Involve yourself in physical activities that you enjoy so that it is easy to remain active. Take up biking or tennis or frisbee or some other sport that you like, and bring a friend along to make it more enjoyable. You can start a physical activity program today. There is no need for high intensity exercise right away. You don't want to burn yourself out before you've developed the habit of being active. If you don't play a sport, you can start an exercise program of moderate intensity. Make sure to vary your exercise program so that you don't become bored. There are plenty of exercises described on the Internet from which you can select and plan your exercise regimen. The important points to remember are to eat a balanced diet with sensible portions and ramp up your activity level. If you have been inactive for a while, or if you are middle aged or older, or if you have chronic disease or risk factors for chronic disease, then check with your physician before you start a physical activity program.

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