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Minority Women's Health

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Overweight and obesity

American Indian and Alaska Native women are more likely than white women to be obese. In fact, less than half of American Indian and Alaska Native women are at a healthy weight. One reason is that Native diets tend to be higher in fat and calories than they used to be. Physical activity has also decreased.

Being overweight or obese increases your risk of:

Use this Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator to calculate your BMI.

Obesity or overweight is measured with a body mass index (BMI). The taller you are, the more weight you can carry. And shorter people can't carry as much weight. So, the BMI shows the relationship of weight to height. For instance, if you are 5 feet 4 inches tall and weigh 145 pounds, your BMI is 25. But if you are 5 feet 4 inches tall and weigh 174 pounds, your BMI is 30. Women with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight. Women with a BMI of 30 or more are considered obese. All people 18 years or older who have a BMI of 25 or more are at risk of early death and disability from being overweight or obese. These health risks increase as the BMI rises.

If you are overweight or obese, losing weight can lower your risk of many health problems. And physical activity is one key part of weight loss and keeping a healthy weight. Health benefits are gained by doing the following each week:

  • Aerobic activity that includes:
    • 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity
    • 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity
    • A combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity
    • Muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days of the week

This physical activity should be in addition to your routine activities of daily living, such as cleaning or spending a few minutes walking from the parking lot to your office. If weight loss is your goal, you may need to spend more time doing aerobic activity to see the effects.

Eating healthy meals that focus on portion control also plays a role in weight loss and keeping a healthy weight. If you need to lose weight, ask your doctor to help you with a weight-loss plan that includes healthy meal planning and physical activity.

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More information on Overweight and obesity

Read more from womenshealth.gov

  • Heart Healthy Eating Fact Sheet - This fact sheet provides information on how healthy eating habits can help to reduce the risk of heart disease. It explains what a healthy portion is and how to make heart-healthy food choices.
  • Overweight, Obesity, and Weight Loss Fact Sheet - This fact sheet defines obesity and explains some of the factors that contribute to becoming overweight or obese. It provides statistics on how many women are obese, explains the serious health problems associated with obesity, and discusses how obese women can lose weight to improve their health.

Explore other publications and websites

  • American Indian Health - This website is an information portal to information about the health of native peoples of the United States. The topics include cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and environmental health.
  • Do You Know the Health Risks of Being Overweight? - The more overweight you are, the more likely you are to have health problems. Weight loss can help improve the harmful effects of being overweight. This fact sheet explains how to find out if you are overweight, how extra body weight can add to health risks, and how to safely lose weight.
  • Fit and Fabulous as You Mature - This publication explains why obesity is a health problem for aging Americans. It discusses the benefits of physical activity and the health risks of poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. It also gives tips for how to become more active and eat better.
  • Just Move It: It's Up to You (Copyright © Just Move It) - This website is part of the national Just Move It campaign to promote physical activity for Native Americans and Alaska Natives. The site provides information on events and programs and offers tips for encouraging physical activity in your community.
  • Native American Food Pyramid - The Native American Food Pyramid is adapted from the USDA food pyramid. It is designed to guide Native Americans in their daily food choices by including both Native American traditional foods as well as American foods.
  • Weight Loss for Life - This publication talks about ways to lose weight and keep it off for life. It emphasizes a mix of healthy diet and exercise and covers different weight-loss programs to help individuals decide what's best for their needs.

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Content last updated: May 18, 2010.

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