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Health Issue: Obesity

Health Consequences

Research has shown that as weight increases to reach the levels referred to as “overweight” and “obesity,”* the risks for the following conditions also increases:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides)
  • Stroke
  • Liver and Gallbladder disease
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint)
  • Gynecological problems (abnormal menses, infertility)

*Overweight is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher; obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or higher. For more, see Defining Obesity.

Trends in the United States

Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater. BMI is calculated from a person’s weight and height and provides a reasonable indicator of body fatness and weight categories that may lead to health problems. Obesity is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

During the past 20 years there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States. In 2008, only one state (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%.

The animated map below shows the United States obesity prevalence from 1985 through 2008.

Alabama31.4Illinois26.4Montana23.9Rhode Island21.5
Alaska26.1Indiana26.3Nebraska26.6South Carolina30.1
Arizona24.8Iowa26.0Nevada25.0South Dakota27.5
Arkansas28.7Kansas27.4New Hampshire24.0Tennessee30.6
California23.7Kentucky29.8New Jersey22.9Texas28.3
Colorado18.5Louisiana28.3New Mexico25.2Utah22.5
Connecticut21.0Maine25.2New York24.4Vermont22.7
Delaware27.0Maryland26.0North Carolina29.0Virginia25.0
Washington DC21.8Massachusetts20.9North Dakota27.1Washington25.4
Florida24.4Michigan28.9Ohio28.7West Virginia31.2

The data shown in these maps were collected through the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). Each year, state health departments use standard procedures to collect data through a series of monthly telephone interviews with U.S. adults. Prevalence estimates generated for the maps may vary slightly from those generated for the states by the BRFSS as slightly different analytic methods are used.