What Are the Health Risks of Obesity
Obesity is a serious medical condition that demands action. If you’re looking for obesity help in Houston, contact Bariatric Care Centers to schedule a consultation with Dr. Brian Mirza.
More than one-third of American adults are obese, 1 as are one in three children and teens. 2 That bodes ill for the health of the nation. Body weight is one of the most significant indicators of overall wellness, affecting nearly every organ and system in the human body, from the respiratory system to the reproductive system. Research has consistently linked obesity to a range of serious medical conditions, and statistics reveal that people who are obese are far more likely to die prematurely than people who maintain a healthy weight.
The problem is clear. So is the solution. Weight loss is the surest way to reduce the risks of obesity-related conditions and, thus, the surest way to boost both the quality and length of life. At Bariatric Care Centers, expert providers of bariatric surgery in Houston, we know that understanding the risks is crucial when it comes to improving health outcomes. Only when someone fully appreciates the dangers will he or she take the necessary steps to mitigate them.
The Link Between Obesity and Health Problems
There is a direct correlation between poor health and obesity—the more obese people are, the more health problems they are likely to have.
Those with a Body Mass Index of 30 or higher (the accepted definition of obesity), face a litany of possible medical conditions, from depression and shame to heart disease and diabetes.
The medical research is consistent. Obesity:
- Decreases quality of life
- Increases the risk of serious diseases
- Reduces physical and mental well-being
- Decreases length of life
While medication and other treatments can alleviate some of the ill effects, only weight loss addresses the underlying problem. At the end of the day, diet, exercise, and bariatric surgery in Houston remain the most effective strategies for combating obesity-related conditions.
What Makes Obesity So Dangerous?
Obesity affects the body in a number of ways. The mere fact of carrying extra body weight around can put added stress on bones and organs. Metabolic and hormonal changes can also wreak havoc on the body. Finally, excess weight can reduce activity levels and boost stress levels, all while lowering self-esteem and increasing social anxiety.
In some cases, obesity directly causes adverse medical conditions; in other cases, it is merely a contributing factor. The end result is the same—all-around poor health.
The Most Serious (and Most Common) Complications of Obesity
Glance at a list of obesity risks, and you’ll see a fair representation of the country’s deadliest diseases. From diabetes to heart disease, the potential complications are manifold and serious. Some of the most common risks of obesity include the following conditions:
- Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes has become something of a national epidemic, and the rise in obesity rates is, no doubt, the biggest culprit. How bad is the problem? In 1958, less than one percent of the population had been diagnosed with diabetes. By 2015, more than seven percent of the population was diabetic—a sevenfold increase and the result of an uninterrupted rise in new cases over the decades. 3
One study of middle-aged women revealed a frightening, but not entirely surprising result: women who had a BMI of 35 or higher were 93 times more likely than women with a BMI of less than 22 to have developed diabetes by the end of the study period. 1 Other studies have shown similar results in men. Indeed, research has consistently confirmed the direct link between obesity and Type 2 diabetes, putting diabetes at the top of the risk list.
Research also suggests that people who have an “apple shape” (those who store a higher percentage of fat around their waists, as opposed to their thighs or buttocks) face an even greater risk. Why? Because the fat cells you carry around your stomach area secrete hormones that cause inflammation, which can, in turn, make you more resistant to insulin. (While all fat cells secrete hormones, the ones are around the waist are particularly good at it.)
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. On the bright side, weight loss can delay or even reverse the negative effects of obesity. Weight loss surgery, in particular, has the potential to prevent type 2 diabetes, mitigate the adverse effects, and even reverse the onset of the disease. 4
- Heart disease and stroke: Excess body weight causes blood pressure to go up. It also leads to higher levels of “bad” (or LDL) cholesterol. Throw in higher blood sugar numbers, more triglycerides, and increased inflammation—you have a potential recipe for heart disease. It’s no wonder obesity is the single greatest risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is the single biggest killer in the United States. 2
How high is the risk? According to one study, obese individuals were 81 percent more likely to develop coronary artery disease than were individuals with a normal weight. 1 The same factors that raise the risk of coronary artery disease and heart attack also raised the risk of stroke by up to 64 percent.
Once again, there is a silver lining. Weight loss at any stage of life can significantly reduce the odds of cardiovascular disease.
- Cancer: A number of studies have linked obesity to cancer, particularly certain types (e.g., colon cancer, breast cancer, kidney cancer, and esophagus cancer). 5 The connection is not as well established as that of obesity and other conditions (largely because of the complexity and variety of cancers) but the evidence does suggest a link.
- Osteoarthritis: When people carry extra weight around, they put added pressure on their joints. That can gradually wear away the cartilage that protects the joints, leading to a condition known as osteoarthritis.
On the flip side, weight loss can relieve the pressure, reducing pain and preventing the further cartilage erosion.
- Reproductive issues: Obesity has a negative impact on female fertility. In fact, up to 25 percent of all cases of female infertility may be traced back to obesity. Obesity may or may not affect fertility in men, but it does seem to reduce sexual function in the male population. 1
- Depression: Depression and obesity feed off each other. According to recent studies, depression increases the likelihood of obesity by almost 60 percent, and obesity increases the likelihood of depression by nearly the same amount. 1 Most likely, a combination of physical and emotional factors is to blame.
- Gout: Gout is a form of arthritis. Like osteoarthritis, it affects the joints and, like osteoarthritis, it is directly correlated with weight. The condition is caused by an excess buildup of uric acid, which forms crystals that collect in the joints, causing severe pain, stiffness, and swelling. The chances of developing gout go up as weight increases. Although sudden weight loss can temporarily exacerbate the condition, weight management may an effective long-term treatment option. 5, 6
- Sleep apnea: People who suffer from sleep apnea tend to snore heavily. Sometimes they stop breathing entirely during sleep. Many people who suffer from sleep apnea are also overweight. Given the correlation, doctors recommend weight management as one long-term strategy for lessening the occurrence and impact of sleep apnea.
In addition to these conditions, obesity also raises the odds of developing respiratory disease, cognitive impairment, memory troubles, and more. Since obesity affects the entire body, it’s hard to list all the potential risks. Suffice it to say, the more excess fat a person has, the more they face a laundry list of potential health complications.
Obesity and Health: What It All Means
No disease exists in a vacuum. Most of the conditions listed above are related. Diabetes, for example, can raise the risk of cardiovascular disease, as can sleep apnea. That’s not to say people who are obese are sure to develop every disease on this list, but the presence of one condition often raises the specter of others.
That’s why combating obesity is critical, for each individual and for the nation as a whole. Diet and exercise are, of course, the first lines of defense but, since it is far more difficult to shed pounds than it is to put them on, bariatric surgery is often necessary.
Bariatric Surgery – Houston, TX
At Bariatric Care Centers, we’re committed to helping people lower their risks for obesity-related medical conditions. That’s why we provide a full range of bariatric surgery options, including gastric bypass and gastric sleeve in Houston. Get in touch with us to learn more about our treatment options and to schedule a consultation with Dr. Mirza.
Disclaimer: This is only for general information. All patients should consult their doctors prior to following any of the recommendations in any articles, post, or video. Every patient has individual needs and limitations that only their treating physicians can be aware of.
- Harvard. T.H. Chan. School of Public Health. “Obesity Prevention Source: Health Risks.” < https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-consequences/health-effects/>
- Public Health. Health Guides. “Obesity in America.” <http://www.publichealth.org/public-awareness/obesity/consequences/>
- CDC’s Division of Diabetes Translation. “Long-Term Trends in Diabetes.” <https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/statistics/slides/long_term_trends.pdf>
- Cleve Clin J. Med. “Bariatric surgery for type 2 diabetes: Weighing the impact for obese patients.” <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3102524/>
- WebMD. “Health Risks of Obesity.” <http://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/obesity-health-risks#1>
- WebMD. “Gout – Treatment Overview.” <http://www.webmd.com/arthritis/tc/gout-treatment-overview#1>
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