The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Health & Fitness

September 24, 2012

Speaking of Health: Obesity and Weight-Loss Surgery

— Obesity is an epidemic in this country. More than one-third of Americans – 78 million people – are considered obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The impact of obesity on a person’s health is quite serious, but the good news is that even modest weight loss can lower the risk of major health problems.

Q: When is a person considered obese?

A: Anyone with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 is considered obese. BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared. You can also divide your weight in pounds by height in inches squared, and then multiply that number by 703. There are also many free BMI calculators available online, including on

Q: Why are so many Americans obese?

A: It’s a complex issue that involves a variety of factors. What it boils down to is that many Americans are taking in more calories than they burn. That could be due to inactivity, poor diet, oversized food portions or other factors.

Q: How does obesity affect a person’s health?

A: Being obese puts someone at greater risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis and certain cancers. By losing even a small amount of weight, a person can improve – and possibly prevent – those health problems.

Q: At what point is surgery an option?

A: When diet and exercise aren’t sufficient to achieve a healthy weight, a person with a BMI greater than 35 is a candidate for bariatric surgery, also called weight-loss surgery, provided he or she meets certain medical criteria. That person must be committed to dramatic lifestyle changes.

Q: What is the preparation for weight-loss surgery patients?

A: Patients meet with a team of health care providers to evaluate physical and mental health. They are required to attend an information session and complete a behavior modification program staffed by registered dietitians, behavior health specialists and physical therapists.

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