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Problems with Obesity

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What problems can obesity cause?

I think we are all in agreement that psychologically, being overweight can affect your body image and damage self-esteem.  In some cases this can cause social anxiety and depression.  The health problems associated with obesity are numerous.  Obesity is not just a cosmetic problem.  It’s a health hazard.  Someone who is 40% overweight is twice as likely to die prematurely as is a normal-weight person.  This is because obesity has been linked to several serious medical conditions. 

These medical conditions include:

Heart disease, stroke and High Blood Pressure – Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death and disability for people in the U.S. Overweight people are more likely to have high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, than people who are not overweight. Very high blood levels of cholesterol can also lead to heart disease and often are linked to being overweight. 

Diabetes -Type 2 diabetes reduces your body’s ability to control blood sugar.  It is a major cause of early death, heart disease, stroke, and blindness. Overweight people are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared to normal-weight people.  Most cases of type 2 diabetes can be attributed to being overweight or obese.  You can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by losing weight, eating a balanced diet, getting adequate sleep, and exercising more.

Cancer -Several types of cancer are associated with being overweight. Being obese increases the risk of dying from cancer.  Cancers of the colon, breast, kidney, and throat are associated with obesity.  Some studies have also reported links between obesity and cancers of the gallbladder, ovaries, and pancreas. 

Gallbladder disease and gallstones – Gallbladder disease and gallstones are more common if you are overweight.  Your risk of disease increases as your weight increases.  It is not clear how being overweight may cause gallbladder disease.

Ironically, weight loss itself, particularly rapid weight loss or loss of a large amount of weight, can actually increase your chances of developing gallstones.  Modest, slow weight loss of about 1 pound a week is less likely to cause gallstones.

Osteoarthritis – Osteoarthritis is a common joint condition that most often affects the knee, hip, and lower back joints.  Carrying extra pounds places extra pressure on these joints and wear away the cartilage (tissue that cushions the joints) that normally protects them.

Gout – Gout is a disease that affects the joints that is caused by high levels of a substance called uric acid in the blood.  The large amount of uric acid can form into solid or crystal-like masses that deposit in the joints.  Gout is more common in overweight people and the risk of developing the disorder increases with higher body weights.

Breathing problems, such as sleep apnea (when a person stops breathing for a short time during sleep) and asthma – Sleep apnea is a serious breathing condition that is associated with being overweight.  Sleep apnea can cause a person to snore heavily and to stop breathing for short periods during sleep.  Sleep apnea may cause daytime sleepiness and even heart failure.  The risk for sleep apnea increases as body weight increases.  Weight loss usually improves sleep apnea.

Doctors agree that the more overweight a person is, the more likely he or she is to have health problems.  People who are overweight or obese are at  increased risk for chronic disease compared to normal-weight individuals.  People who are overweight or obese and can gain significant health benefits from losing weight.  A person is considered obese if he or she weighs at least 20% more than the maximum healthy weight for his or her height.

Common physical problems include:

difficulties breathing

difficulties walking or running

increased sweating

pain in the knees and back

skin conditions such as acne

These conditions are often known as obesity-related diseases and are some of the most common causes of death before the age of 75.  This is why obesity increases your risk of mortality.

The Bottom Line:  All of these diseases can be helped or prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.

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