Being overweight or obese increases the risk for
numerous ailments, including high blood
pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis,
cancer, and poor reproductive health.1 According
to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
61.5 percent of women and 69.6 percent of
men were overweight or obese in 2003-04.
Measurements of overweight and obesity are
based on Body Mass Index (BMI), which is
calculated using height and weight. Overweight is
defined as a BMI of 25.0–29.9, and obese is
defined as a BMI of 30.0 or more; a BMI of
18.5–24.9 is considered normal weight while a
BMI below 18.5 is considered underweight.
Since 1960, rates of overweight and obesity
among men and women have increased dramatically.
In 1960-62, 24.5 percent of women were
overweight and 15.7 percent were obese,
compared to 27.4 and 34.0 percent, respectively,
in 2001-04. This marks an 11.8 percent increase
in female overweight and a 116.6 percent increase
in female obesity over the past 4 decades. Men
saw a smaller increase in rates of overweight
(4.4 percent), but a larger increase in rates of
obesity (182.2 percent). However, men are more
likely to be overweight than women, while the
reverse is true for obesity.
Rates of overweight and obesity among women
vary by race and ethnicity. In 2003-04, Hispanic
women (32.1 percent) were more likely than
non-Hispanic White and non-Hispanic Black
women to be overweight (28.4 and 26.9 percent,
respectively). Non-Hispanic Black women were
most likely to be obese (53.0 percent), while non-Hispanic White women were least likely to be
obese (30.3 percent).