Dear Dr. Levister: I am an African American female, young, healthy and slightly overweight. My mother and older sisters are massively obese and generally unhealthy. What are my chances of becoming obese? V.C.
Dear V.C.: The obesity rate is high in the African American community. African-American women have the highest rates of overweight and obesity compared to other groups in the United States. About 4 in 5 African-American women are overweight or obese. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of: heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure, stroke, breathing problems, arthritis, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea and some cancers.
Obesity or overweight is measured with a body mass index (BMI). The taller you are, the more weight you can carry. And shorter people cannot carry as much weight. So, the BMI shows the relationship of weight to height. For instance, if you are 5 feet 4 inches tall and weigh 145 pounds, your BMI is 25. But if you are 5 feet 4 inches tall and weigh 174 pounds, your BMI is 30. Women with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight. Women with a BMI of 30 or more are considered obese. All people 18 years or older, who have a BMI of 25 or more, are at risk of early death and disability from being overweight or obese. These health risks increase as the BMI rises.
If you are overweight or obese, losing weight can lower your risk of many health problems. And physical activity is one key part of weight loss and keeping a healthy weight. Health benefits are gained by doing aerobic activity that includes: 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or a combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days of the week
This physical activity should be in addition to your routine activities of daily living, such as cleaning or spending a few minutes walking from the parking lot to your office. If weight loss is your goal, you may need to spend more time doing aerobic activity to see the effects.
Eating healthy meals that focus on portion control also plays a role in weight loss and keeping a healthy weight. If you need to lose weight, ask your doctor to help you with a weight-loss plan that includes healthy meal planning and physical activity.