Overweight and obesity are two words that are in news more and more frequently in the last decade.
It has become an epidemic in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Backention (CDC), more than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese.
When you eat more calories on daily basis than you burn through exercise and physical activities, the extra calories add up over time and lead to obesity.
Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. BMI is calculated taking a person’s weight and height into account.
Some of the reasons for obesity are an unhealthy diet, lack of sleep, inactive lifestyle, genetics, age, pregnancy and hormonal changes in the body.
At times, people gain weight due to medical conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and hypothyroidism.
Obesity is a serious issue that can have a negative effect on many systems in your body and increase your risk of several health problems.
Here are the top 10 health risks of being overweight or obese.
1. Type 2 Diabetes
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the body is either not capable of producing sufficient insulin to regulate blood glucose levels or the insulin produced is unable to work effectively.
Obesity increases a person’s risk of Type 2 diabetes. A 2011 study published in Diabetes Care approves the relationship between obesity and Type 2 diabetes and emphasizes preventing obesity in order to benefit the incidence and care of Type 2 diabetes.
A 2014 report by Public Health England states that being overweight or obese is the main modifiable risk factor for Type 2 diabetes.
According to the report, 90 percent of adults with Type 2 diabetes in England were overweight or obese in 2014.
A 2015 study published by Nature Medicine reports that obesity causes inflammation, which in turn leads to Type 2 diabetes. The inflammatory molecule LTB4 promotes insulin resistance.
While obesity increases the risk of diabetes, this metabolic condition is the leading cause of early death, coronary heart disease, strokes, kidney disease and blindness.
To cut your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, try to lose weight, eat a balanced diet, get adequate sleep and exercise more.
2. High Blood Pressure
About 1 in 3 U.S. adults, or about 70 million people, suffer from high blood pressure or hypertension, according to the CDC.
Every time the heart beats, it pumps blood through the arteries to the rest of your body. A blood pressure of 120/80 mm Hg is considered normal.
If the top figure is consistently 140 or higher and the bottom figure is 90 or higher, then you suffer from high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, and it has been found to increase with weight gain and age.
A 2009 study published in the Ochsner Journal highlights the connection between obesity and hypertension. The study emphasizes that weight loss, though difficult, must be the first line of therapy for treating hypertension.
Later, a 2012 study of 885 apparently healthy adolescents in Nigeria published in BMC Public Health found that the prevalence of hypertensive-range blood pressure among obese Nigerian adolescents was high. The study recommended screening for childhood obesity and hypertension.
While obesity is associated with hypertension, one can also suffer from hypertension due to several other reasons, such as genetics, excessive drinking, high salt intake, lack of exercise, stress, and use of birth control pills.
Whatever the reason is behind high blood pressure, try to lose weight, follow the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, avoid high dietary sodium, drink in moderation and make exercise a part of your daily routine.
3. High Cholesterol
People who are overweight or obese are more likely to have high cholesterol, a condition in which the levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol) and triglycerides are too high and the level of high-density lipoproteins (HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol) is too low.
Abnormal levels of these blood fats are a risk factor for coronary heart disease.
A 2004 study published in the International Journal of Obesity analyzed the relationship between total cholesterol, age and BMI among males and females in the WHO MONICA Project.
Researchers concluded that public health measures should be directed at the prevention of obesity in young adults since it increases the risk of excess cholesterol in the bloodstream.
Apart from obesity, smoking, excessive drinking, increased age, genetics, diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney or liver disease also play a major role in high cholesterol.
To fight obesity and high cholesterol, try to lose weight. A 2007 study published in Obesity (Silver Spring) reports that sustained weight loss is an effective method to reverse the decrease in HDL levels in obese people.
More specifically, weight loss achieved through exercise is highly effective at raising HDL levels compared to dieting.
4. Heart Disease and Stroke
With an increase in BMI, there is also an increased risk for heart disease. Obesity leads to the buildup of plaque (a waxy substance) inside the coronary arteries that supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart. Plaque obstructs blood flow to the heart.
Moreover, obesity may cause or contribute to alterations in cardiac structure and function. The risk of sudden cardiac death as well as a stroke is also increased with obesity.
Plus, obesity increases the risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and both conditions increase the risk of heart disease or strokes.
A 2006 study published in Circulation reports that obesity is a chronic metabolic disorder and is associated with cardiovascular diseases and increased morbidity and mortality rates.
A 2008 study published in the Journal of American Board of Family Medicine notes that obesity affects the cardiovascular system directly in many ways, in addition to its indirect effects, and it increases morbidity and mortality.
The study also stresses taking necessary steps to stop the obesity epidemic to reduce the burden of cardiovascular diseases in people.
Later, a 2009 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology summarized the adverse effects of obesity on cardiovascular disease risk factors and its role in the pathogenesis of various cardiovascular diseases.
If you are overweight, try to lose some pounds, especially around your waist, to protect yourself from a heart attack or stroke.
Cancer occurs when cells in body start growing abnormally or out of control. According to the CDC, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S.
While there are several risk factors for developing cancer, being overweight is one of them. Obesity increases the risk of developing certain cancers, such as breast, colon, rectum, uterus, gallbladder and kidney cancer.
In fact, death due to cancer in obese people is also high.
A 2003 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that higher BMI in both men and women was significantly associated with higher rates of death due to cancer of the esophagus, stomach, colon, rectum, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, breast, uterus, cervix and kidney.
Later, a 2013 study published in the Journal of Obesity also shed light on the connection between obesity and cancer, irrespective of gender and site specification.
Maintaining a healthy weight through healthy eating and physical activity plays a key role in reducing the rise in cancer risk.
6. Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder in which there are brief pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep. It causes restless sleep throughout the night and leads to sleepiness during the day. It also causes heavy snoring.
Obesity is one of the leading risk factors for sleep apnea. An overweight person may have more fat stored around his or her neck, making the airway smaller and breathing difficult.
A 2008 study published in American Thoracic Society reports that obesity is a potent risk factor for the development and progression of sleep apnea and is due to the distribution of adiposity between the central and peripheral compartments.
This study also shows that when patients with sleep apnea lose weight, improvements in upper airway function and disease severity are noticed.
A 2011 study published in South Dakota Medicine suggests that even modest weight loss improves obstructive sleep apnea as well as positively affects both metabolic and cardiovascular risk profiles.