Obesity and health are inversely proportionate – meaning the greater the weight the more unhealthy you become. Being obese or fat isn’t just a cosmetic problem. It has serious complications on almost all your body systems including psychological and mental concerns. It drastically reduces the quality of life of the obese individual.
Obesity is highly dangerous to health and is labeled as a disease of epidemic proportions. Its statistics tell us that obesity is the second highest cause of preventable deaths in the United States and is expected to soon take over the number one position from smoking.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one-third of the people are overweight, and another third are obese. That is two-thirds of the Americans carry an unhealthy weight and high health risks.
CDC also classifies obesity as the leading cause of death in the United States and worldwide through its many complications, which among others include diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some types of cancer.
Obesity health risks are a reality and the effects do not just end with one health condition, but a variety of health disorders, each of which can be serious. Its consequences spread across every medical specialty. Life expectancy of an obese person is said to reduce by nine years.
It is the central abdominal obesity in which visceral fat deposits are present, which poses the health risks. This is the apple shaped obesity that is considered dangerous.
The other type of obesity is called pear-shaped obesity, in which there is the subcutaneous deposit of fat around the thigh and the hips. It is believed not to pose much health risks.
How Obesity Impacts Your Health
The effects of obesity are wide-ranging and cover not only physical health issues but mental problems as well. It is necessary for all of you obese people to know the dangers in their full form in order to be motivated to reduce weight. A reduction of even 5% to !0% of your weight can substantially reduce your risks.
1) Increased blood pressure
The increasing prevalence of obesity is being recognized as one of the most important contributing factors for the development of hypertension in an alarmingly large number of people. At least two-thirds of the hypertension cases are being attributed to obesity.
The additional fat tissue mass in an obese person requires more blood to be circulated in order that all the body tissues receive adequate blood. This puts an extra load on the heart, which then has to pump more blood through the additional blood vessels to the increased body mass.
More circulating blood means more pressure in the arteries. This is why the blood pressure increases in central adiposity.
About 30 percent of overweight/obese people have diabetes and 85 percent of diabetics are overweight or obese.
According to Harvard School of Public Health, being even slightly overweight increased diabetes risk five times, and being gravely obese increased the risk of diabetes 60 times.
The reason for this is that the enlarged fat cells in obese individuals employ macrophages (white blood cells) and promote inflammation and the release of several factors that cause insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance means the body cells do not take up the glucose from the blood, which leads to its build up in the blood. This leads to diabetes type 2.
Both obesity and diabetes are described as twins having caused epidemics and being the central topics of numerous studies.
3) Obesity and cholesterol
Obesity tends to raise LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides and lower HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol).
Due to high levels of cholesterol and fats in the blood of obese people, fatty deposits or plaques develop on the inner walls of the arteries. This is called atherosclerosis.
This results in narrowing of the arteries and subsequently to less blood flow to various parts of the body, including the heart. Atherosclerosis is ten times more prevalent among obese people than people of normal weight
4) Obesity and Heart
Due to a high incidence of atherosclerosis in obese people, cardiovascular diseases like angina, heart attack, and congestive cardiac failure are more prevalent.
Atherosclerosis reduces the lumen of the arteries including the cardiac arteries leading to reduced blood flow to the heart muscle.
Over time, as the atherosclerotic plaque builds up it occludes the lumen of the artery. This leads to loss of blood supply to that particular wall of the heart, which gets infarcted and you suffer from myocardial infarction (heart attack).
5) Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
Obese people are more prone to develop deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This is the development of a thrombus in the deep veins of the leg. This thrombus can get detached and can travel through the vein. It can get lodged anywhere such as in the lungs. This is a serious condition is called pulmonary embolism. It causes instant death.
Along with the rise in obesity rates, those of DVT too are rising.
The reason behind this is that obese people are more idle and hardly resort to any physical activity. That makes the blood flow sluggish and more prone to developing clots.
Secondly, due to adiposity around the abdomen, the deep veins in the belly are compressed. This prevents the blood from moving smoothly.
However, obesity alone may not be responsible is what research now says and more evidence is required. Other associated conditions such as age, illness, immobility, and history play an important role too.
According to the Journal of the American Heart Association, for every 1 unit increase in the BMI beyond the healthy value (24.9), the risk for ischemic stroke increases by 5%.
The relative risk for obesity-related stroke is higher in middle-aged people than in older individuals and an obese person is more likely to develop an ischemic stroke than a hemorrhagic one.
7) Obstructive sleep apnea
In adults, being overweight and obese is the most common cause of sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a serious and a common condition that occurs during sleep and in which your breathing is repeatedly interrupted.
This decreases the oxygen saturation in the blood and awakens the person.
It is caused by recurring episodes of upper airway obstruction caused by the excess and lax soft tissue of the upper airway leading to loud snoring.
Obese people tend to have large tonsils, a big tongue and increased fat in the neck, all of which press on the upper airway and block it when the pharyngeal (throat) muscles are relaxed during sleep.
The incidence of sleep apnea is on the rise due to the increased prevalence of obesity
This is a frightening effect, enough to goad an obese person to start losing weight. Obese people are at a higher risk of getting cancer.
Cancer of the endometrium (lining of the uterus), postmenopausal breast cancer and cancer of the colon are the most common cancer complications of being obese.
Other cancers, which can also be caused due to obesity are cancer of the gallbladder, prostate, and kidneys.
9) Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which the median nerve passing through the carpal tunnel of the wrist gets compressed by the surrounding tissues in the tunnel. This gives rise to pain, tingling, and numbness in the hand. Carpal tunnel syndrome is four times more common in obese people than in people of normal weight.
There is increasing evidence, which points to an association between obesity and asthma, both of which are dramatically increasing in prevalence.
Obese people, especially with a BMI of 30 or more, are at a very high risk of developing asthma. Besides, obesity is also associated with poor asthma control.
However, the underlying pathophysiology of this association between the two is not yet fully understood.
However, it could be that the fat around the chest and the abdomen could press on the lungs and not allow them to expand fully.
Secondly, due to chronic inflammation in fat people, this could also cause inflammation of the bronchial and lung tissues.
11) Gallbladder stones
The association between obesity and formation of gallstones is well established, but the reason for the same still eludes us.
Of the people who suffer from gallbladder disease, 69% are overweight or obese. Paradoxically, a rapid loss of weight can give you gallbladder stones.
12) Liver diseases
As far as the impact on the liver is concerned, obesity and alcohol can have the same effect.
Both can damage the liver and this can lead to fatty liver and even scarring (cirrhosis).
Fatty liver in alcoholics is called alcoholic fatty liver disease while in those who do not drink it is called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
NAFLD is now more common than the alcoholic liver disease in the United States.
Once people pass a certain threshold of weight gain and physical inactivity, the pancreas just cannot produce enough insulin to keep the blood sugar under control.
Blood sugar builds up and gets converted into fats. The liver gets extra loaded and is unable to process all of it. The fats then get deposited in the liver cells.
Too much of this can cause the liver to get inflamed and the liver cells begin to get damaged. If this damage continues, scarring of the liver can start progressively and cirrhosis can develop.
13) Obesity and Arthritis
Obesity affects the joints because the joints have to bear the extra weight of the obese body. About 35% of obese adults suffer from arthritis, which makes them immobile and incapable of physical activity, thereby adding to the woes of the person who is eager to reduce his or her weight.
Osteoarthritis of the knee is the most common among this complication but the joints of the hip, back, and the hand may also be affected.
Every 2 pounds gained significantly starts increasing the risk of osteoarthritis. However, losing weight up to 5 kgs could start reducing the symptoms.
Obesity also increases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
According to recent research, obesity is one of the primary causes of gout. About half the people who suffer from gout are overweight. Obesity puts a very high strain on the kidneys, which, as a result, do not function to optimal levels. Excretion of uric acid is hampered and this leads to uric acid build up in the blood, leading to gout.
15) Obesity risk of chronic venous insufficiency
Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is the inability of the veins in the legs to return blood back to the heart against gravity. This happens due to the weak valves in these veins and lack of adequate pumping action by the leg muscles.
Although obesity does not directly cause chronic venous insufficiency, other factors associated with obesity directly contribute to this condition. These factors are raised blood pressure, lack of physical activity and joint problems (arthritis), which make the obese person sedentary. CVI can lead to varicose veins.
16) Lowered Immunity
How or why immunity drops because of obesity is still not known, but scientists do maintain that obese people show a higher tendency to catch infections.
Obesity does harm the immune system and the immune cells do not show the same efficacy to fight infection as a person with normal weight.
17) Obesity and Kidney Failure
Research indicates that due to obesity kidney failure risks are increased and this risk increases with increasing BMI. Men and women who are or were obese are 3 to 4 times more likely to develop renal failure than people of normal weight. This is possibly due to the fact that the kidneys are forced to constantly work harder in obese people. Obesity also increases the risk of kidney disease such as cancer of the kidney.
18) Obesity and Menstruation
Obesity in women often causes oligomenorrhoea, amenorrhea and irregular periods. In some obese women, periods can be very heavy, painful and prolonged.
Changes during the menstrual cycle are controlled by the hormones of the body. Estrogen is one of the important ones. After menstruation, estrogen prepares the uterine inner lining and makes it conducive for implantation of the fertilized ovum.
If fertilization does not take place, the uterine lining is shed during the next period.
Estrogen is produced mainly in the ovaries but it is also produced by the fat cells.
More fats cells as in obese women mean more estrogen is produced.
More estrogen means a thicker uterine lining, which translates into a heavy bleeding during menstruation.
This additional estrogen in obese women causes an imbalance with the other important hormones, which leads to irregular periods or even missed periods.
Obese people are more likely to have fertility problems than those with a normal weight.
In women, obesity can cause anovulation, loss of the oocyte quality, irregular menstruation leading to a reduced pregnancy rate.
Obese men have low levels of testosterone. This adversely affects the production of sperms and their quality. Sperm count is low and the quality and motility of the sperms also suffer.
The volume of the semen is reduced and erectile dysfunction is quite common among obese men.
All these factors in obese men and women tend to make conception very difficult in obese people.
20) Maternal obesity and pregnancy
Maternal obesity carries the risk for the pregnant mother, the developing fetus, and the pregnancy. More the degree of obesity, higher is the risk.
Complications of pregnancy in an obese woman include gestational diabetes mellitus, pre-eclampsia, preterm labor, delivery by emergency caesarian section, postpartum hemorrhage, low weight baby, and intrauterine death of the fetus.
Any existing comorbidities compound the risk.
21) Obesity and GERD
Studies do indicate that obesity does increase the risk of GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) or heartburn. This risk can also be associated with erosive esophagitis and cancer of the esophagus. Studies also indicate the rise of GERD symptoms with the rise in BMI.
Researchers are not sure of the connection between obesity and GERD but theories do mention of compression of the stomach by visceral or abdominal fat leading to stomach contents getting refluxed into the esophagus. Another reason could be fatty and fried foods, which form the mainstay of the fat person’s diet.
22) Obesity and Stress incontinence
Urinary stress incontinence is the involuntary passing of urine. It is more common in women after pregnancy and delivery. It results due to the weakening of the urethra and the pelvic floor muscles. In obesity, especially morbid obesity, stress incontinence and urge incontinence is common especially among women.
Increased abdominal pressure due to abdominal fat and weakening of the urethral valve and pelvic floor muscles seem to be the cause.
23) Psychological problems
Obesity often triggers depression. Obese women are more likely to be affected than men.
According to one study, 37% of the obese women suffered from major depression with frequent thoughts of suicide.
Stress can cause a person to eat more as a diversion. It also takes away the desire to exercise. Both mental stress and obesity can trigger and influence each other.
24) The risk of premature death
According to a report from The Guardian, moderate obesity can shorten life by up to 3 years while severe obesity can shorten life by 10 years. The combination of the effects of obesity such as diabetes, hypertension, increased cholesterol, and heart diseases seem to be responsible for these premature deaths.
25) Obesity and H1N1
Extreme obesity is very susceptible to H1N1 pandemic influenza infection. Extreme obese people with a BMI of more than 40 were three times more like to die of H1N1 than people with normal weight.
The death risk increases with higher BMI. A survey of 2009 showed that half of Californians above the age of 20 years who were admitted to the hospitals with H1N1 infection were obese.
Obese people should see their doctor at the earliest if any symptoms of flu develop. Obese people with BMI of 40 or more should get themselves vaccinated for influenza annually.
26) Obesity and metabolic syndrome
There is an epidemic of obesity and the metabolic syndrome in the United States and across the world.
Metabolic syndrome is necessarily a health disorder of the obese people. It is characterized by the presence of at least three of the following conditions: a big waist circumference, raised blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, reduced HDL cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, the presence of insulin resistance and an increased risk of clotting.
Metabolic syndrome greatly increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes complications.