A man gets his waist measured with measuring tape by a medical professional.Nearly 65 percent of adult Americans are overweight and more than one in three are obese. It’s an epidemic putting millions of people at risk for a variety of serious health issues.

If you’re overweight or obese, knowing the facts can help you understand the dangers you face and allow you to take control of your options:

  1. FACT: The scale only tells part of the story. It’s important to calculate your body mass index to determine if you are actually overweight or obese. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight; a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.
  2. FACT: Health risks associated with a high BMI are compounded by excess abdominal fat. A waist circumference greater than 35 inches for women and greater than 40 inches for men indicates a greater risk.
  3. FACT: Obesity can be caused by genetics, poor eating habits, lack of physical activity—or often a combination of all three.
  4. FACT: Conditions commonly linked to being overweight or obese include arthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, sleep apnea and gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD. It’s also linked to several kinds of cancer, including esophageal, gallbladder, pancreatic, colorectal, uterine and breast (in post-menopausal women).
  5. FACT: A relatively small change can make a big difference. Losing 5 to 10 percent of your weight can lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and reduce risk of other conditions. And a 5 percent to 7 percent weight reduction can prevent type 2 diabetes.
  6. FACT: If you’re ready for a change, set a weight loss goal of one or two pounds per week. A slow, steady loss is more likely to be permanent than dropping weight quickly. Before dieting, see your doctor for a check of your health and medical conditions.
  7. FACT: Increased physical activity can help you lose weight and keep it off. Aim for 30 minutes a day most days of the week. You can sneak activity into your day by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking at lunch or using a treadmill at home while watching TV.
  8. FACT: Most weight-loss drugs are intended for short-term use and will only help for about the first six months before losing their effectiveness. Discuss this option with your doctor, and if you choose a weight-loss drug, be sure to combine it with healthier eating and physical activity so you can keep the weight off.
  9. FACT: If you have a BMI of more than 40, or a BMI of at least 35 plus other obesity-related conditions, weight loss (bariatric) surgery may be an option.