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HEALTH RISKS OF OBESITY

What Is Obesity?

Here’s a short video that might give you an idea of how carrying around some extra weight feels.

Before getting into the health risks of obesity let’s define it first.

The Mayo Clinic defines obesity as a complex disorder involving an excessive amount of body fat. Obesity isn’t just a cosmetic concern. It greatly increases your risk of diseases and health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Overweight and Obesity-Related Health Problems in Adults

Coronary Heart Disease

How overweight a person is can be defined  by the Body Mass Index measurement.  The BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms (kg) divided by his or her height in meters squared. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) now defines normal weight, overweight, and obesity according to BMI rather than the traditional height/weight charts. Overweight is a BMI of 27.3 or more for women and 27.8 or more for men. Obesity is a BMI of 30 or more for either sex (about 30 pounds overweight). A very muscular person might have a high BMI without health risks.

As your body mass index rises, so does your risk for coronary heart disease  or (CHD). CHD is a condition where a wax like material (plaque)  builds up inside the coronary arteries that feed oxygen and nutrients to the heart muscle.

When one or more of these arteries become narrowed or blocked by Plaque the blood flow to the heart muscle is reduced causing a decrease in the oxygen available to the heart muscle.  This often results in chest pain, which is referred to as angina.

Obesity also can lead to heart failure. This is a serious condition in which your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs due to continued damage to the heart muscle itself.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage the body in many ways.  Studies show that the chances of getting high blood pressure are greater if you’re overweight or obese.  There are several theories about why this occurs.  Over time obesity has a negative effect on many body systems that can cause blood pressure elevations.

Stroke

As already stated, Being overweight or obese can result in plaque building up in your arteries. Over time these areas of plaque can weaken and rupture, causing a blood clot to form.

If the clot travels to your brain, the flow of blood and oxygen to your brain may be reduced  and cause a stroke.  As a person’s Body Mass Index increases so does the risk of having a stroke.

Type 2 Diabetes

In Diabetes the glucose level in the blood, or blood sugar, is higher than normal.  During the digestive process food is broken down into basic nutrients such as proteins and carbohydrates.  The carbohydrates are further broken down into glucose which is carried to cells throughout the body. The hormone insulin turns the glucose into energy.

There are two types of Diabetes.  Type 1 usually occurs in early childhood and is cause by a lack of insulin and is treated with insulin injections on a daily basis.  In Type 2 diabetes, the body produces insulin but the cells don’t use the insulin efficiently. At first, the body reacts by making more insulin. Over time, however, the body can’t make enough insulin to control its blood sugar level.

Diabetes is a leading cause of early death, coronary heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness. Most people who have type 2 diabetes are overweight.

Elevated Levels of Fats in The Blood

The overweight and  obese have an increased risk of having abnormally high levels of the blood fats triglyceride and Low Density Lipid or LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and abnormally low levels of High Density Lipid or HDL (“good”) cholesterol.  Abnormal levels of these blood fats are a risk factor for coronary heart disease.

For more information about triglycerides and LDL and HDL cholesterol click here.

Metabolic Syndrome

According to the Mayo Clinic Metabolic Syndrome is a “cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels — that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes”.

Any one of these risk factors can occur alone, but they tend to occur together and the more of them that are present the higher your risk of heart disease becomes.

If you have three or more of them you are considered to have metabolic syndrome.   Being overweight or obese also raises your risk for colon, breast, endometrial, and gallbladder cancers.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a common condition in the joints, often due to wear and tear over years that more often affects the knees, hips, and lower back. The condition occurs if the tissue that protects the joints wears away. Extra weight can put more pressure and wear on joints, causing pain.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a common disorder that consists of frequent pauses in breathing or shallow breathing while sleeping. It often occurs in overweight people due to extra fat in the neck area that causes pressure and narrowing of the airway when laying flat while sleeping.

Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome

Obesity hypoventilation syndrome (also known as Pickwickian syndrome) occurs in severely overweight people.  It consists of  the failure to breathe rapidly or deeply enough.  This results in low oxygen and high carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the blood. Over time this can result in a number of metabolic problems related to not enough oxygen going to the cells of the body.

OHS can lead to serious health problems and may even cause death.

Reproductive Problems

Obesity has significant consequences for the reproductive system, depending upon the amount of body fat and where it is located.  Medical evidence shows that menstrual disorders, infertility, miscarriage, poor pregnancy outcome, impaired fetal well-being and diabetes  all correlate with being overweight.

Gallstones

Gallstones are hard pieces of stone-like material that form in the gallbladder and are composed of cholesterol. People who are overweight have more cholesterol in their bile resulting in an increased risk of developing gallstones.

How fat is distributed around the body may also contribute to the development of gallstones. A recent study found that men with more fat around their abdomens had a greater chance of developing problematic gallstones than those with smaller waistlines.

Overweight and Obesity-Related Health Problems in Children and Teens

Being overweight or obese also increase the health risks for children and teens. Type 2 diabetes, once  rare in American children, is  increasing as our children are becoming increasingly overweight.  An added problem is that overweight children are more likely to remain overweight or become obese into adulthood.

Conclusion

Obesity is becoming an epidemic of sorts in the U.S. and results in a number of illnesses and diseases that decrease quality of life and shorten the obese persons lifespan.

Often obesity is complicated by hereditary factors.  It’s important to discuss what you can do to reduce your body weight and BMI with your physician before the symptoms of the illnesses noted in this article become evident.  Even if obesity runs in your family there are approaches that can are effective at helping you reduce weight and achieve a healthier life.

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Published inChronic IllnessesMedical Issues and Injuries

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