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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Is your weight a health risk?

According to a new study from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 9 out of every 10 Australian adults are living with at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Among these risk factors, obesity ranks very highly among tobacco smoking, physical inactivity, low fruit consumption, low vegetable consumption, risky alcohol consumption, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes.

Obesity related health risks

Obesity is a serious medical condition, and in addition to increasing our risk of cardiovascular disease is also associated with a wide range of chronic and life-threatening conditions and severe health complications.

In fact, Obesity has been linked with all of the following diseases and conditions:        

  • Heart Disease
  • Certain cancers (post-menopausal breast, colon and endometrial cancer)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Breathlessness
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Reproductive hormone abnormalities
  • Sleep apnoea
  • Osteoarthritis (knees)
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Insulin resistance
  • High uric acid levels and gout
  • Impaired fertility
  • Low back pain
  • Increased anaesthetic risk
  • Foetal defects associated with maternal obesity
  • Abnormal lipid / body fat profile

Techniques for assessing our weight related health risk.

According to the American National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) the assessment of risk associated with being overweight involves using three key measures:

  1. Body mass index (BMI)
  2. Waist circumference, and
  3. Risk factors for diseases and conditions associated with obesity.

The BMI is a measure of your weight relative to your height and waist circumference measures abdominal fat. Combining these with information about your additional risk factors yields your risk for developing obesity-associated diseases.

What is Your Risk?

1. Body Mass Index (BMI)

BMI is a reliable indicator of total body fat, which is related to the risk of disease and death. The score is valid for both men and women but it does have some limits. These limits include:

  • Potentially overestimating the body fat in athletes and those with muscular builds.
  • Potentially underestimating body fat in older people and others who have lost muscle mass.
  • Not taking into consideration weight gain during pregnancy. Pregnant women should contact a health professional to assure appropriate weight gain during pregnancy.

For your convenience, a BMI calculator is available for you to use free of charge on this website.

The BMI calculator is very easy to use and there are full instructions listed on the BMI Calculator page.

To navigate to and use this calculator simply click on this link: BMI Calculator or go to the main menu and you'll find a direct link to the BMI calculator under Weight Loss > Tools > BMI Calculator.

2. Waist Circumference

Waist circumference is a good indicator of your abdominal fat which is another predictor of your risk for developing heart disease and other serious medical conditions.

To correctly determine your waist circumference, place a measuring tape snugly around your waist at the level of your belly button.

As a general guide, health risks are said to increases with a waist measurement of over:

  • 102 centimetres or 40 inches in men and
  • 88 centimetres or 35 inches in women.

The table below, Risks of Obesity-Associated Diseases by BMI and Waist Circumference, provides you with an idea of whether your BMI combined with your waist circumference increases your risk for developing obesity associated diseases or conditions.

Classification of Overweight and Obesity by BMI, Waist Circumference, and Associated Disease Risks
Disease Risk*
BMIObesity ClassMen <102cm
Women <88cm
Men >102cm
Women >88cm
Underweight<18.5-- -
Normal 18.5 - 24.9-- -
Overweight 25.0 - 29.9-Increased High
Obesity 30.0 - 34.9I High Very High
35.0 - 39.9II Very High Very High
40.0+III Extremely

Source: NHLBI.
* Disease risk for type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and CVD.
+ Increased waist circumference can also be a marker for increased risk even in persons of normal weight.

3. Other Risk Factors

Besides being overweight or obese, there are additional risk factors to consider, namely:

  • high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • high LDL-cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol)
  • low HDL-cholesterol ("good" cholesterol)
  • high triglycerides
  • high blood glucose (sugar)
  • family history of premature heart disease
  • physical inactivity
  • cigarette smoking

Overall assessment and NHLBI recommendations.

If you fall into the obese (BMI greater than or equal to 30) or overweight categories (BMI of 25 to 29.9) and have two or more of the other risk factors listed above, the NHLBI recommends weight loss.

Even a small weight loss (just 10 percent of your current weight) can help to lower your risk of developing diseases associated with obesity.

Overweight people who do not have a high waist measurement, and have less than 2 risk factors may need to prevent further weight gain rather than lose weight.

To be sure about your particular situation, talk to your doctor to see if you are at an increased risk and if you should lose weight.


According to a new study from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 9 out of every 10 Australian adults are living with at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

For a growing number of us, this risk factor is, or includes obesity.

Obesity is a serious medical condition that is associated with a wide range of chronic and life-threatening conditions and severe health complications.

If you think that your current weight may be putting your health at risk, you now know how to assess that risk yourself using the information and tools provided above.

As always though, in addition to conducting an initial self-assessment, we encourage you to speak with your doctor and get professional advice on the status of your most valuable asset - your health.

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