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Contact Information

Center for Disabilities Studies
University of Delaware
461 Wyoming Road
Newark DE 19716
Phone: 302-831-6974
TDD: 302-831-4689


What is Overweight and Obesity?
Effects of Obesity on Health
Causes and Risk Factors
Calculate your Body Mass Index
Treating Underlying Causes of Obesity
Obesity and Disabilities
Childhood Obesity

(Source:, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute)

What is Overweight and Obesity?

Overweight and obesity are both labels for ranges of weight that are greater than what is generally considered healthy for a given height. The terms also identify ranges of weight that have been shown to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems.

Obesity can be measured using body mass index, also known as a person’s BMI. Body mass index is used primarily as a screening tool and to help determine whether a person is currently at risk for weight issues.  Mathematical formulas and calculators for measuring a person’s BMI vary among age group, from children and teens to adults. While BMI is fairly reliable, however, it is not the only factor is determining whether an individual is at risk for disease related to being overweight or obese.

BMI correlates weight and height with body fat. See the following table for an example.

Height Weight Range BMI Considered
5′ 9″ 124 lbs or less Below 18.5 Underweight
125 lbs to 168 lbs 18.5 to 24.9 Healthy weight
169 lbs to 202 lbs 25.0 to 29.9 Overweight
203 lbs or more 30 or higher Obese

Effects of Obesity on Health

Obesity can lead to many health complications involving multiple organ systems. These health complications can decrease the quality of life for an individual. Many of these complications can be prevented by preventing obesity itself. Some additional health problems include:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Type II Diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • Respiratory problems
  • Certain cancers
  • Premature death
  • Psychological/emotional effects

(Source: Adapted from Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity,

Causes and Risk Factors

Understanding the causes and risk factors of obesity is important to help prevent it. Knowing what is normal and abnormal is also a big factor. For example, it is normal for a person to gain a little weight overtime as part of the natural aging process. A person who gains a large amount of weight in a short period of time, however, can be a cause for concern. While the cause could be poor eating habits and exercise, it could also be from medications that need to be lowered or a health condition the person is not aware of.

Causes/Risk Factors
Age Metabolism slows down with aging
Gender Women more likely than men to have excess weight
Genetics Tends to occur in families
Diseases Hypothyroidism, Cushing’s Syndrome, Depression
Psychological Factors Boredom, depression, stress, anxiety, esteem issues
Diet & Exercise Poor eating habits and lack of physical activity
Some drugs Steroids, antidepressants

Calculate your Body Mass Index

BMI Calculator for an Adult

BMI Calculator for Child/Teen

Where do you fall on the spectrum? BMI Ranges:

Underweight: Below 18.5
Normal weight: 18.5-24.9
Overweight: 25.0-29.9
Obese: 30.0 and Above

Lower your health risks by eating well and getting in shape. Learn good nutrition and increase your physical activity and start living a healthy lifestyle today. The good news is even a small weight loss (between 5 and 10 percent of your current weight) will help lower your risk of developing serious disease.

Treating Underlying Causes of Obesity

Common Causes Treatment
Age Improve diet, the body requires fewer calories to keep the same weight
Gender Improve diet and exercise
Genetics Know family history and if you are at risk for being overweight or obese
Diseases Hypothyroidism: see your health care provider and get your hormone levels checked. An inactive thyroid could cause you to gain excess weight and thyroid medication to help with your metabolism may be necessary. Cushing’s syndrome: An excess amount of cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands which lead to a build-up of fat. Treatment is based on what is causing the excess of cortisol and may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, drugs. Depression: treat depression signs and symptoms-therapy, medications
Psychological factors Access eating habits, emotional responses to eating, binge eating patterns and treat underlying psychosocial issue(s)
Poor diet and exercise Increase physical activity, routine exercise program, healthy eating, nutrition counseling
Some drugs Lower dosages if possible on medications causing excess weight gain, teach coping strategies and ways to handle negative side effects of medication, improve diet and exercise


Obesity and Disabilities

Data from the Disability and Health in Delaware Report indicates that people with disabilities are at a higher risk level for developing obesity based on lifestyle risk factors such as exercise and nutrition.

Delaware Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System 2006-2008 Selected Data

Lifestyle: Exercise & Nutrition

This section describes lifestyle choices and nutrition intake among adults with and without disabilities. These topics were assessed through questions that asked each respondent about their physical and dietary habits.

Physical Activity

An active lifestyle contributes to better health outcomes for all adults. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, physical activity is any form of exercise or movement of the body that uses energy (US Dept. of Health and Human Services, 2008). In 2007, 24.6% of adults with disabilities indicated that they do not participate in vigorous or moderate physical activity compared to 7.2% who did not report having a disability. Of respondents that reported having a disability, 34.3% reported meeting established national 18 guidelines for physical activity. Of respondents that did not report having a disability, 52.0% reported meeting guidelines for physical activity.



In addition to physical activity, nutrition is essential for good health. According to the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, five servings of fruits and vegetables per day are recommended for a reference 2,000-calorie intake, with higher or lower amounts depending on the calorie level (US Dept. of Health and Human Services, 2009). In 2007, 78.2% of adults with a disability indicated that they did not meet this recommendation and 78.7% of respondents without a disability did not meet this recommendation.

Learn about the research done by the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability (NCPAD): Research: Obesity in people with intellectual disabilities: The impact of nurse-led health screenings and health promotion activities.

Childhood Obesity

Body mass index for children can be used to help diagnose obesity in children in conjunction with a child’s growth chart. Simple changes in diet and exercise can help get a child back on track to living a healthy lifestyle and avoid the many complications that can occur from being overweight or obese. There are many resources available as to the causes of childhood obesity in specific and what is being done in the state of Delaware and nationally to help lower the incidences of childhood obesity.

What you can do as a parent:

Routine Exercise
Reduce time spent on the computer and watching television
Support and guidance

CDC Childhood Overweight and Obesity

Sussex Child Health Promotion Coalition

Nemours 5-2-1 Almost None: Statistics on childhood obesity, find out what 5-2-1 Almost None Represents

Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Campaign: America’s Move to Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids

Let’s Move Campaign Video