Obesity is an epidemic of recent times, where the calorie intake of people exceeds calorie expenditure. This leads to too much body fat and ranges of weight that are greater than what is considered healthy for a given height. Excess weight increases the risk of serious health problems like chronic diseases and certain types of cancer. However, obesity and weight related health problems can be reversed by adopting appropriate weight loss measures.
Usually, body mass index (BMI) is used to measure body fat. It measures the weight in relation to height (kg/m²). People with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 are considered overweight and BMI of 30 or more are considered obese. (1) However, excess body weight isn’t the only health risk; the places where body fat is stored also affect the health. Therefore, waist size is another measure used to find out “abdominal obesity”. Waist size of more than 35 inches for women and more than 40 inches for men increases the risks of weight-related health problems even more than having fat in other parts of the body.
Health Effects of Obesity
Excess body fat and weight in obese people make them vulnerable to chronic health problems:
Type 2 Diabetes:
In diabetes, people suffer from persistent high blood sugar levels. Excess body fat, especially around the waist increases the risk of type 2 diabetes by causing changes in cells. These changes make them resistant to the hormone insulin, which carries sugar from blood to the cells to be used for energy. In insulin resistant people, blood sugar cannot be taken up by the cells and result in high blood sugar. In the long term, high blood sugar levels lead to heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, amputation, and blindness.
High Blood Pressure:
Heart pumps blood through the arteries to every cell of the body and blood pressure measures how hard your blood pushes against the walls of your arteries. In obese individuals there is a risk of high blood pressure as heart has to pump harder to supply blood to all the cells in their large body. Also, excess body fat in obese people may damage the kidneys, which help in regulating blood pressure. Persistent high blood pressure or hypertension causes serious health problems like heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.
Heart Disease & Stroke:
In obese individuals, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar levels cause damage and plaque formation in the blood vessels that carry blood to the heart, which disrupts the proper blood supply to the heart. These people then become at risk for many heart related problems such as heart attack, heart failure, sudden cardiac death, angina (chest pain), or abnormal heart rhythm. Similar to heart disease, stroke happens when proper flow of blood to a part of brain stops due to hardened and narrow blood vessels.
In cancer, cells in one part of the body grow abnormally or out of control. Sometimes, these cancerous cells spread to other parts of the body. Obese people are found at increased risk of developing certain cancers such as colon and rectum, gallbladder, kidney, uterus and breast. Research suggests that fat cells in obese people may release hormones that cause abnormal cell growth and lead to cancer. Another factor can be unhealthy eating and sedentary lifestyle of obese people that lead to increased risk of cancer. Read more about how you can eat a cancer fighting diet.
People suffering from sleep apnea have one or more pauses in breathing during sleep. These people experience daytime sleepiness, difficulty in focusing and even are at risk for heart failure. Obese people are at risk of sleep apnea as they have more fat stored around their neck, which makes their airway smaller and make breathing difficult and loud. Excess fat in the body also causes inflammation and increases chances of sleep apnea.
In osteoarthritis, people suffer from pain and stiffness in their joints of the hands, knees, hips, and lower back. Excess weight is one of the risk factors for osteoarthritis, as it puts extra pressure on joints and cartilage, which causes them to wear away. Also, excess body fat in obese people causes inflammation in their body and joints, which further increases their risk for osteoarthritis.
Fatty Liver Disease:
Non-Alcoholic Steato-Hepatitis (NASH) or fatty liver disease is a condition, which occurs when fat builds up in the liver and causes cirrhosis, severe injury or even liver failure. Obese people are at risk of this disease, as excess body fat increases the risk of fat build up inside their liver. Here are more suggestions on how you can reduce fatty liver disease
People suffering from kidney disease face problem in proper filtering of blood, and removal of extra water and waste products in the form of urine, which lead to wastes build up in the body. Obese people often have diabetes and high blood pressure, which make them more vulnerable to chronic kidney disease.
Besides, these health problems obese women face increased risk of health problems during pregnancy like gestational diabetes (high blood sugar) and preeclampsia (high blood pressure), which may need a caesarean (C-section) delivery. These conditions may cause short- and long-term health problems for the mother and the baby, if left untreated. Often, babies of obese mothers are at an increased risk of being born too soon, being stillborn or having neural tube defects. Losing weight and reaching a normal weight before becoming pregnant is advised to reduce chances of developing weight-related problems during pregnancy.
However, the good news is that obese people can lower their risk for these chronic diseases by losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of their body weight. As, weight loss significantly reduces inflammation and improves health parameters (blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels), which help in preventing, reversing or treating chronic diseases related to obesity.