What Are the Health Risks of Obesity?

Obesity is a condition in which a person has a harmful amount of body fat or an unhealthy distribution of body fat. Obesity raises the risk of several serious health complications. Having excess body fat puts harmful strain on bones and organs. It also causes complex changes in hormones and metabolism, and increases inflammation. 

If you have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, you’re considered obese. To check your BMI, you can use an online calculator, like the one here. Just enter your height and weight to get your BMI.

Being obese doesn’t mean that you’ll develop the health conditions that we’ll be outlining below, but it does increase your chances of developing one or more of them. Here are 11 health conditions that can result from obesity and what you can do to prevent or manage them. 

11 Health Conditions Related to Obesity

  • Type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes happens when your blood sugar is higher than normal. Most people who have type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. You can reduce your risk of getting type 2 diabetes by losing weight, eating a balanced diet, and exercising. Even losing just 5-7% of your body weight can help delay or prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
  • Heart disease. Heart disease is more common in people who are obese. If you’re obese, conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol can make heart disease more likely. Losing weight can help lower your risk.
  • Stroke. Stroke and heart disease share many of the same risk factors. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off, which can cause damage to brain tissue and result in a wide range of disabilities, such as speech and language impairment, weakened muscles, and changes to thinking and reasoning skills. 
  • Sleep apnea. Sleep apnea, a breathing condition that’s linked to being overweight, can cause a person to snore and stop breathing during sleep. Overweight and obese people have more fat around their neck, which makes the airway shrink. Losing weight often improves sleep apnea. 
  • High blood pressure. Having extra fat tissue means that your blood vessels need to circulate more blood to that extra fat tissue, which means your heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body. The increase in the amount of blood circulating puts extra pressure on the walls of your arteries. Over time, high blood pressure can damage your heart and arteries. Losing weight will help lower your blood pressure.
  • Liver disease. If you’re obese, you’re at risk for developing a liver disease known as fatty liver disease or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Excess fat builds up in the liver which can damage the liver and cause scar tissue growth, known as cirrhosis. Losing weight will help reduce your risk of developing this.
  • Gallbladder disease. The gallbladder is responsible for storing bile and passing it to the small intestine during digestion. Bile helps you digest fats. Obesity increases your chances of developing gallstones, which are painful and occur when bile builds up and hardens in the gallbladder. Eating a diet high in fiber and fats can help you avoid getting gallstones.
  • Certain cancers. Obesity can increase your risk for certain cancers, such as breast, colon, gallbladder, pancreatic, kidney, prostate, uterus, ovaries, and endometrium. Losing weight can help lower your risk of these cancers.
  • Pregnancy complications. Pregnant women who are obese can develop insulin resistance, high blood sugar, and high blood pressure. This can increase the risk of complications during pregnancy and delivery, including gestational diabetes, blood clots, premature birth, miscarriage, and more. 
  • Gout. Gout is a disease that affects the joints and is caused by too much uric acid in your blood. Gout is more common in overweight or obese people. Losing weight can help reduce your risk of getting gout.
  • Osteoarthritis. Extra weight places extra pressure on your joints and cartilage, causing them to wear away. In addition, people with excess body fat can have higher levels of substances in their blood that causes inflammation, which can raise your risk of osteoarthritis. Losing even just 5% of your body weight can decrease stress on your joints and lessen inflammation in your body. 

Take Charge of Your Health

Obesity has been linked to multiple serious health risks. Losing weight can reduce your chances of dealing with one or more of the conditions described above. You can identify your risk factors by taking our bariatric health risk assessment.

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