The American Medical Association, the nation's largest association of physicians, is re-classifying obesity as a disease.
The AMA says obesity is a disease that requires treatment and prevention efforts.
Without the classification, doctors say the path to surgery has been very challenging. Insurance companies have often classified the surgeries as "elective," making it difficult for many to afford potentially life saving procedures.
Doctors also say the changes will make it easier for obese patients to receive nutritional counseling.
Obesity is defined as a body mass index of 30 or higher. Over one-third (33.7%) of U.S. adults are obese (nearly 75 million adults) and about 12 million (16.9%) of U.S. children ages 2 to 19 are obese and nearly one in three (31.7%) U.S. children (23,500,000) ages 2 to 19 are overweight or obese.
"Obesity is mainly caused by taking in more calories than are used up in physical activity and daily life, but other factors may also contribute to obesity including genetics, limited access to healthy foods or unsafe environment for physical activity," says Donna Arnett, Ph.D., president of the American Heart Association. "When people eat too many calories, or too much saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, their blood cholesterol levels often rise. But even taking off a few pounds can provide you with cardiovascular benefits, so every step in the right direction is a step toward healthier living."
If you have too much fat — especially around your waist — you're at higher risk for health problems. Obesity
When your weight is in a healthy range your body more effectively circulates blood, your fluid levels are more easily managed, and you are less likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers and sleep apnea.
The American Heart Association can help you get there. To determine your risk for heart disease and stroke, visit www.mylifecheck.org and learn how you can lower your risk.