Obesity and Health

obesity and healthObesity is one of the leading most preventable causes of death in the U.S. It is often a chronic disease that can have significant negative consequences on your health, both physically and psychologically.

Being obese means that you have extra body fat that increases your risk of serious health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, sleep apnea, and even some types of cancer.

High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease. Excess weight, particularly around the abdomen (i.e. belly fat), requires more blood to circulate to the fatty tissue. This increased blood circulation puts added pressure on the artery walls, leading to high blood pressure. This can cause blood vessels to narrow, leading to coronary heart disease. Hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis, is seen more often in obese individuals than those of normal weight.

Moreover, narrow blood vessels cause the heart to work harder, and can lead to a heart attack. Being obese lowers good cholesterol levels (HDL), while raising the bad cholesterol (LDL) and triglycerides levels. Poor cholesterol levels also add to the risk of heart disease.

Diabetes. Your body can become resistant to insulin, which is the hormone that is responsible for regulating blood sugar, when you are obese. As you become insulin resistant, your blood sugar levels rise and increase the risk for diabetes.

Sleep Apnea. When extra weight is placed on the chest wall, it squeezes the lungs, making breathing more difficult, especially at night. Sleep apnea causes individuals to halt breathing while sleeping for brief periods several times throughout their sleep cycle.

Metabolic Syndrome. Metabolic syndrome, which is associated with obesity, involves a combination of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, low HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides. Having metabolic syndrome increases the risk of heart disease.

Joint issues. When excess weight stresses the joints, particularly the knees, hips, and lower back, it can lead to joint and cartilage damage, and the development of osteoarthritis.

Psychological Effects. People who are obese can have body image issues that contribute to social or psychological problems. Social isolation, shame, low self-esteem, guilt, sexual functioning issues, and depression can impact an obese person’s quality of life.

It is not all doom and gloom, however. Many of these health complications of obesity can be eliminated by reducing the excess weight. Lifestyle changes of exercise and healthy eating, medical weight loss, and weight loss surgery are all viable options to treat obesity.