Health Problems


According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, approximately 60% of the American population is obese. In 1999, an estimated 61 percent of U.S. adults were either overweight or obese, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more. Just one year later, in 2000, 38.8 million American adults were obese, defined as having a body mass index score of at least 30. The Behavorial Risk Factor Surveillance System shows that in 2002, 51 states in the country had at least half their adult populations overweight or obese, up from 12 states in 1992. There are almost twice as many overweight children and almost three times as many overweight adolescents today as there were in 1980. The number of those who are “severely obese” (with a BMI of 40 or more) is growing twice as fast as the number who are “obese.” Obesity is indeed an epidemic and sadly, obese children usually grow into obese adolescents and 80% of obese teenagers will expand into obese adults.1

This problem is so pervasive that consumers can now buy items to fit their bulk: larger caskets, chairs, stronger beds, washcloths on “sticks,” and plus size clothes. A notable example of how Natives are affected by this deterioration of health is found in 1994 Diabetes Care that reveals Pimas in Mexico who ate more of a traditional diet were less fat and suffered less from diabetes than Pimas living in Arizona who ate a westernized diet of fatter foods.2

Physical problems associated with obesity are numerous. Over-fat children and adults are prime candidates for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, hypertension, orthopedic disorders, pancreatic disorders, respiratory diseases, various cancers. Obesity also causes a variety of other problems, such as low self-esteem, lack of confidence and, it attracts stereotypes.

1.An adult is "overweight" when he/she is above a healthy weight, which varies according to a person's height and physical fitness. A person is overweight when their BMI “body mass index” is between 25–29.9. A person with a BMI of 30 or more is obese. For example, for a 5'4" woman, this means that she is 30 or more pounds over her healthy weight. This can be confusing, however, because some people are quite muscular and because muscle weighs more than fat, they weigh more than the height-weight charts that are geared towards “normal” population.

Calculate your BMI and read more about the difference between overweight and obesity at, CDC, Nutrition and Physical Activity, Obesity and Overweight: Body Mass Index (BMI) and See also National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at

Men can calculate their BMI (body mass index) by dividing their weight in pounds by your height in inches, squared. Then multiply by 705. If your BMI is over 25, you’re supposedly overweight. Over 30 and you’re obese. There is an obvious problem with this, just as there is a problem with muscular women who apply to be airline attendants but are considered to be “overweight”: muscle weighs more than fat, so many fit people would be considered overweight and/or obese.

Ways for men to check their body fat content (although the underwater method is the most accurate), is to measure your waist around your belly button; if it’s more than 40 inches then you have too much fat. For women, they have too much fat if their waist is over 35 inches. You can check the fat on your thigh by sitting in a chair with your feet o the floor. Pinch the skin on the top of a thigh and if the width of that pinch is more than an inch, you have too much fat. Barnard and Brown, “Commentary: U.S. Dietary Guidelines Unfit for Native Americans.”

2. For information about research on Pimas, see