The Center for Disease Control defines anyone with a body mass index between 25 and 29.9 as overweight, and anyone with a BMI over 30 as obese.
Maureen Bevan, the bariatric coordinator for the Sharon Regional Health System, said obesity is a problem, not only on a national level, but locally as well. Some conditions related to obesity include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and sleep apnea.
Bevan said there are three factors that lead to obesity: genetics, behavioral and environmental.
Marlene Roth, 60, of Youngstown, prepares an insulin shot. Though Roth’s Type 1 diabetes was not a consequence of weight, Type 2 diabetes can often be a result of obesity.
"We don't work as physically hard as generations in the past," Bevan explained. "The tools available today make it easier."
Eating out as opposed to cooking at home can also be a factor, she said, because portion sizes are always larger.
"When I got divorced, I went from 190 (pounds) to 240 in less than a year," said Greg Bartholomew, 44, of Warren. He has type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, all of which he attributes to his weight gain. "I'm 220 now. When I can get my weight down to about 210 or less, my vitals are pretty decent."
Obesity is associated with 112,000 excess U.S. deaths each year, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, and obese individuals have a 10 to 50 percent increased risk of death compared to individuals of healthy weight.
The ASMBS, founded in 1983, is striving to improve public health and well being by lessening the burden of obesity and related diseases. They say obese individuals spend 40 percent more on health care than individuals of healthy weight.
Bartholomew agreed that he spent more money on medications after his weight gain.
"Twelve years ago, it was ridiculously expensive," he explained, "to the point where I was buying it from Mexico." The website he used - an online pharmacy - didn't require him to have a prescription. "It's come down a lot," he said, and he now fills his diabetes medication at Giant Eagle, where he can get the generic version of the pills at no cost.
According to a national study, the medical costs attributed to obesity in the United States nearly reached $78.5 billion in 1998. Only half of these costs were paid by Medicaid and Medicare.
"Some insurance companies will cover it," Bevan explained, so costs vary from person to person.
The cause of the obesity also varies: Marlene Roth, 60, Youngstown, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when she was 17. She only weighed 98 pounds.
"I eat very little," she said, but she now weighs significantly more. She attributes her weight gain to the insulin shots she gives herself five times per day - 65 units in the morning and 60 in the evening.
"It packs on the pounds," she said.
She also has high blood pressure and takes three different kinds of cholesterol medication.
Sharon Regional offers three different weight loss surgery programs: the laparoscopic RY gastric bypass, the LAP-BAND System, and the newest procedure, the Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy.
The RY gastric bypass - a stomach stapling procedure - takes place inside the abdomen, resulting in a smaller stomach which maintains an early sense of fullness.
The LAP-BAND System, an adjustable gastric band, doesn't involve cutting or stapling of the stomach or intestinal re-routing; it can be performed on an outpatient basis and is the first FDA-approved adjustable gastric band for use in weight reduction.
The Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy is the newest technique in weight loss surgery, and doesn't involve a bypass of the intestinal tract.
According to UPMC, weight loss surgery should only be considered when all other options have been exhausted, and only for people who are medically classified as morbidly obese with a BMI of greater than 40.
The CDC offers alternative solutions to maintain a healthy weight: reduce sedentary activities such as watching TV; increase physical activity; and eat nutritiously by including at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day with reasonable portion sizes.