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Teen Health

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Overweight Teens

How Do I Know if I'm Overweight? continued...

Teens with a higher percentage of body fat tend to have higher BMIs than teens who have a greater percentage of muscle. However, in a few cases -- such as with very muscular athletes, who might have high BMIs even though they are quite fit -- the BMI may not give an accurate picture of health risks.

And what's the difference between being "overweight" and "obese?" Being "overweight," defined as having a BMI of 25 to 29.9, implies being too heavy for one's height. Obesity, defined as having a BMI of 30 or above, refers specifically to having too much body fat. It is extra body fat, not muscle, that increases the risk of serious health problems.

Can Being Overweight Harm My Health?

When your doctor says you are "overweight," you are at higher risk for serious illnesses, such as heart disease, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. Overweight teens are also at higher risk of psychological problems, such as depression. Also, being overweight and having increased abdominal fat is closely linked to type 2 diabetes, which has increased dramatically in teens.

Being overweight is associated with early onset of sexual maturity in girls and delayed sexual maturation in boys.

Am I Overweight?

Everyone is different. Your best friend may be the same height as you and weigh 10 pounds less. Yet you both may be at your best weight, depending on factors like your bone structure and genetics.

Most teens' weights vary as they hit growth spurts during puberty. For example, over a period of 18 months, a teen boy might go from a 5-foot, 141-pound eighth grader to a 6-foot-2,165-pound high school sophomore. Sure, he was chunky in eighth grade. But look at him now!

Usually it's obvious when you're overweight, especially when you look at your body in a full-length mirror after getting out of the shower. You might be able to pinch a lot of fat at your waist, belly, underarms, or thighs. You might notice that the number on your bathroom scales is a lot higher than it used to be. Or your clothes may become way too snug and are hard to button or zip.

The problem with being overweight is that it's unhealthy. The more excess weight you carry around, the higher your risk of serious diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer.

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