Obesity is defined clinically as being 20 percent heavier than your ideal weight.
Overwhelming research shows that the risks of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, osteoarthritis and even some forms of cancer start to climb when body-fat levels are above a rating of 24 BMI (body mass index), but really soar when BMI is above 30.
A rating of 25 is overweight; 30 obese; 40 severely obese.
To calculate your own approximate body mass index:
* Multiply your weight by 700.
* Divide the answer by your height in inches.
* Divide again by height in inches.
A Spread Sheet
* Fifty-four percent of all American adults are heavier than is healthy, according to a recent study from the University of Colorado. About one-third of American adults are obese, which is defined as being 20 percent over your ideal weight. Twenty-five percent of people under the age of 18 are considered obese also.
* Instances of severe obesity - not being able to fit in an airline seat - have ballooned 350 percent over the past 30 years.
* The National Institutes of Health report that obesity is the second-leading cause (after smoking) of preventable death in the United States today, and estimate that obesity-related disease costs the nation about $100 billion a year in direct health-care expenses or in lost productivity.
Recommendations by obesity specialists for thinning up America:
* Encourage exercise - perhaps even reward people with reduced insurance premiums or additional vacation time.
* Encourage restaurants not to use food portions as a competitive issue. People generally will eat all they are served.
* Increase the sense of urgency about controlling obesity through government-sponsored campaigns similar to the ones for anti-smoking.
* Require schoolchildren to exercise vigorously at least 30 minutes daily.
* Increase the availability of low-fat foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and make processed low-fat foods as tasty as high-fat versions.
Pub Date: 10/18/98