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WI Heart Warning: Not Only Obese at Risk

July 13, 2009

Madison, Wisc. – Sometimes, "the middle" isn't such a great place to be. For instance, much has been said about the risks of being obese, but when it comes to being overweight - that is, the middle range between normal weight and obesity - the health focus has not been so keen.

In adults, being "overweight" is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9. However, Dr. Susan Isensee, director of Dean Health System's Comprehensive Weight Management Program in Madison, says focusing on the relationship between total mortality and BMI misses the larger picture of what people need to do to improve their health.

"I tell many of the patients when they come in here, that I don't like the word 'diet.' That's a bad four-letter word in my language. Lifestyle changes are what it's about - getting active. Exercise is still very important. There's no question that exercise helps us be healthier in more ways than just losing the weight."

Isensee points to factors other than body mass index that indicate potential health problems - which means taking a closer look at your waistline.

"How do you carry your weight? Because if you do carry much more 'central' obesity, your risk is increased."

Isensee recommends that, in addition to studying the BMI-mortality connections, researchers focus more effort on the overall relationship between health and being overweight. Even among the young, she says, being overweight is related to the development of serious risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, obesity, elevated cholesterol levels and Type 2 diabetes.

Glen Gardner, Public News Service - WI