A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop obesity with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing obesity. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors for obesity include:

Poor Diet

If you eat high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, you are likely to eat more calories than you burn each day, thus increasing your risk of becoming obese. Another risk factor is eating until you are full and eating quickly.

If you are pregnant, your diet may also affect your child's risk of obesity. For example, skipping breakfast and smoking may increase your child's risk of becoming obese.

Children may also be at risk for becoming obese if they do not eat their regular meals with their family.

Lack of Sleep

Not getting enough sleep may put children at risk for obesity. How much sleep in enough for kids? Here are general recommendations:

  • Aged 5 years or younger—11 hours or more
  • 5-10 years—10 hours or more
  • 10 years or older—9 hours or more

Physical Activity

Lack of Physical Activity

If you don’t get enough physical activity (exercise), you are likely to burn fewer calories than you eat each day, thus increasing your risk of becoming obese. For children, too little exercise and spending too much time watching TV or playing on the computer can increase their risk of gaining weight and becoming obese.

Working Varied Shifts

Working shifts at different times of the day and night increases your risk of becoming obese.

Medical Conditions and Medications

Certain medications, rare hereditary diseases, and hormonal imbalances (such as hypothyroid and Cushing’s disease) increase your risk of obesity.

Smoking

If you are a smoker and want to quit , you may worry that quitting will increase your weight. Keep in mind that you can overcome this weight gain by reducing how many calories you consume and by exercising more. Overall, the health benefits of quitting smoking far exceed the risk of gaining weight.

If you are pregnant, smoking may increase your child's risk of becoming obese.

Age

The incidence of obesity more than doubles between the ages of 20 and 55. However, this may be related to a decrease in activity levels. A recent study found that within 30 years, over half of a large group of normal-weight men and women became overweight.

Genetic Factors

Specific, rare hereditary diseases may increase the risk of obesity. In addition, there seems to be a general tendency for obesity to run in some families, though the reason for this is not well understood.

Race

There is a higher incidence of obesity among certain races or ethnic groups. In the US, obesity affects 66% of middle-aged black women and 68% of Mexican American women, compared with 45% of white women.