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What is morbid obesity?

Obesity becomes "morbid" when it reaches the point of significantly increasing the risk of one or more obesity-related health conditions or serious diseases (also known as co-morbidities) that result either in significant physical disability or even death. As you read about morbid obesity you may also see the term "clinically severe obesity" used. Both are descriptions of the same condition and can be used interchangeably.

Am I morbidly obese?

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Use a BMI calculator to determine if you are morbidly obese and potentially a candidate for weight loss surgery.

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Answering this question may give you the courage you need to take the first step. There are several medically accepted criteria for defining morbid obesity.

You are likely morbidly obese if you experience the following:

  • Your weight is more than 100 lbs. over your ideal body weight.
  • Your Body Mass Index (BMI) is over 40.
  • Your BMI is over 35 and you are experiencing severe negative health effects, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, related to being severely overweight.
  • You are unable to achieve a healthy body weight for a sustained period of time, even through medically supervised dieting.

According to the National Institutes of Health Consensus Report, morbid obesity is a serious disease and must be treated as such. It is a chronic disease, meaning that its symptoms build slowly over an extended period of time.

Health threats of morbid obesity

Morbid obesity brings with it an increased risk for a shorter life expectancy. For individuals whose weight exceeds twice their ideal body weight (about 2 to 6 percent of the U.S. population), the risk of an early death is doubled compared to non-obese individuals. The risk of death from diabetes or heart attack is five to seven times greater.

Even beyond the issue of obesity-related health conditions, weight gain alone can lead to a condition known as "end-stage" obesity where, for the most part, no treatment options are available. Yet an early death is not the only potential consequence. Social, psychological and economic effects of morbid obesity, however unfair, are real and can be especially devastating.

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