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Obesity is defined as having an excessive amount of body fat. It increases the risk of diseases and health problems, such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Doctors often use a formula based on height and weight, called the body mass index (BMI), to determine if a person is obese. For most people, BMI is a reliable indicator of weight status. To calculate your BMI use the CDC’s BMI Calculator. external link

The standard weight status categories associated with BMI ranges for adults are shown in the following table.

BMI Weight Status
Below 18.5 Under weight
18.5- 24.9 Normal
25.0 -29.9 Overweight
30.0 or higher Obese

Waist Circumference

picture of man measuring his waist

Waist size is another way to determine if a person is overweight. The risk for obesity related conditions may be higher for people with excessive abdominal fat. People at higher risk include:

  • Men whose waist circumference is more than 40 inches
  • Non-pregnant woman whose waist circumference is more than 35 inches

Excessive abdominal fat places a person at greater risk for developing obesity-related conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease. People who have excessive abdominal fat should consult with their physicians or other health care providers to develop a plan for losing weight.

People can measure their waist size (circumference) by placing a tape measure around the bare abdomen just above the hip bone. Be sure that the tape is snug, but does not compress the skin, and is parallel to the floor. Relax, exhale and measure.


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