Gone are the times when obesity was considered just a cosmetic issue. It is now recognized as a chronic progressive disease that results from poor lifestyle and some genetic factors, according to the World Health Organization and various medical and scientific societies.
Obesity not only has an economic impact, but it also contributes negatively to individual and societal health. It affects physical and psychological well-being. And as it is progressive in nature, obesity requires a long-term effort to bring back the body in its physically healthy state.
Do I really weigh too much?
The perception of being over-weight may vary across societies. The difference in perception is also found across genders. So what’s the way to tell if a person is actually overweight?
There are two numbers you need to know.
1. Basal Metabolic Weight (BMI)
2. Waist size in inches
Basal Metabolic Weight is the measure of body fatness. It is calculated as the weight of a person in kilograms divided by the square of his height in meters. A high score is an indication of high body fatness.
Following is the scoring criteria:
- <18.5 = Underweight
- 18.5–24.9 = Normal weight
- 25–29.9 = Overweight
- BMI of 30 or greater = Obesity
So a BMI score between 25–29.9 means a person is overweight, and if weight gain is not controlled at this point, the status will change into obesity.
Waite size is another important indicator. Having too much belly fat increase the risk of having fat in other body parts, as well. Obesity-related diseases are more likely to occur in females with more than 35 inches of waist size. Males who have a waist size of more than 40 inches are more prone to obesity-related diseases.
Read on find out how obesity affects your body and what are some research-proven ways to manage it.
Health Effects of Obesity
There are two main types of diabetes.
- Type 1 diabetes (Insulin-dependent diabetes)
- Type 2 diabetes (Noninsulin-dependent diabetes)
The risk for insulin-dependent diabetes is more in people who have a family history of type 1 diabetes. While there is an environmental factor in type 1 diabetes, genetics seems to play a strong role.
Type 2 diabetes, one the other hand is strongly linked to lifestyle factors. Obesity increases the risk of type 2 diabetes ten-folds, and type 2 diabetes can double the risk of death.
Diabetes can lead to another set of diseases, including:
- Hard-to-heal infections
- Kidney disease
- Heart disease
- Circulatory defects
- Nerve defects
2. Heart Disease
Heart diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide. Ischemic heart disease accounted for 15.2 million deaths in 2016. In fact, heart disease has topped the list of leading causes of deaths every year in the past 15 years.
Obesity plays a major role in the development of heart diseases, according to the American Heart Association. The results of cohort studies have confirmed that obesity increases the risk of heart diseases. Individuals with a high BMI are more prone to develop coronary heart diseases, and therefore, the risk of heart attacks is more in these individuals. It also increases the risk of heart failure.
Irregular heartbeats, known as arrhythmias, are a risk factor for cardiac arrest. Arrhythmias have been observed in more frequency in obese individuals.
3. Respiratory Disorders
Obesity reduces the lung capacity, which is the maximum volume of air human lungs can hold. People who are overweight are more likely to develop respiratory infections and asthma. The risk of asthma triples in the presence of obesity.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a condition in breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep, has also been found to be caused by obesity, along with other causes. OSA is a result of excessive fat in the neck, throat, and tongue. The high fatness in these regions blocks the airway during sleep. This blockage causes apnea (temporary cessation of breathing).
More than half the obese population has OSA. In the case of the severely obese population, the percent of affected people increases to 90.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a risk factor for high blood pressure, heart failure, and pulmonary hypertension. It can also cause cardiac arrest and stroke. The OSA also interferes with normal sleep patterns and the affected person would not gain enough sleep. This results in drowsiness and fatigue.
Cancer affects more than half a million lives per year in the United States alone. Obesity is believed to cause up to 90,000 cancer deaths per year. As body mass index (BMI) increases, so do your risk of cancer and death from cancer. These cancers include:
- Endometrial cancer
- Cervical cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Postmenopausal breast cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Gallbladder cancer
- Liver cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Thyroid cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- Multiple myelomas
For people with severe obesity, the death rate increases for all types of cancer. The death rate is 52 percent higher for men and 62 percent higher for women.
5. Musculoskeletal Disorders
Musculoskeletal disorders are becoming increasingly common, owing to various reasons. One of those reasons is excess weight. Obesity is directly associated with osteoarthritis of the hip and knee. Osteoarthritis is a common issue that arises in old age or due to an injury resulting in joint pain and stiffness. Excess weight contributes to physical as well as metabolic strain on the bones, joints, and muscles.
Additionally, people with greater body fat have higher levels of inflammatory substances that add to the risk of osteoarthritis. Obesity is also responsible for increased lower back pain and lower limb pain. Additionally, obesity increases the risk of disability sprouting from musculoskeletal conditions.
Ischemic strokes are the most commonly reported type of stroke. They result from blood clots in an artery carrying blood to the brain that causes brain cells to die. The other type is referred to as a hemorrhagic stroke. This variant of stroke results when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. Research reveals a direct association between the occurrence of strokes and obesity.
Hypertension is the leading cause of strokes and often results from obesity. Excess weight increases your predisposition to other conditions related to strokes such as high blood sugar, hyperlipidemia, and heart disease. One of the ways to reduce the risk of strokes is via blood pressure control. Excess weight increases the risk of developing an ischemic stroke by 22%. Obesity, however, increased the risk by 64%.
Hypertension is a rising global concern that presents with no symptoms but is the root cause behind a multitude of serious ailments such as stroke, kidney failure, and heart disease. Since a larger body size requires the heart to pump the blood harder to make sure it is reaching every cell, the association between obesity and high blood pressure is not surprising. Additionally, excess fat can damage your kidneys, which leads to kidney failure in many. Weight loss will aid you in reaching a healthy BMI range. A normal BMI range means lowered blood pressure.
8. Pregnancy and Infertility
Obesity enhances the risk of early and late miscarriages in pregnancies along with the risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, as complications during labor and delivery. Additionally, obesity also contributes to an increased risk of developmental anomalies, premature births, neural tube defects, as well as stillbirths.
Overweight pregnant women are at a greater risk of developing hypertension, high blood glucose, and insulin resistance. Research proves that infertility rates are the lowest in women with a BMI ranging from 20 to 24. These rates were reported to increase in women with BMIs lower and higher than this range. As for men, obesity and its impact on men’s health and reproduction remains relatively unclear. Studies have found oligospermia, low sperm count, as well as asthenospermia, poor sperm motility. However, no concrete evidence is available yet.
Aside from reproduction, obesity may also contribute to sexual dysfunction. Research shows that the odds of developing erectile dysfunction increases with increasing BMI. Reaching a healthy weight before pregnancy may reduce your chances of developing weight-related pregnancy issues. Overweight or obese pregnant women should consult their doctor about limiting weight gain and being physically active during pregnancy.
9. Kidney Failure
Kidneys help control blood pressure, so the body is healthy and functioning. Metabolic syndrome results from a cluster of factors that increase the risk of conditions such as hypertension as well as diabetes, both of which are the two most commonly reported causes behind kidney failure. The characteristics of metabolic syndrome include:
– Large waist size and increased fat around the middle part of the body
– High triglyceride levels in the blood
– Low HDL i.e., good cholesterol in the blood
– High blood pressure
– High blood sugar
Even if you are taking medication to control your blood glucose, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia still predispose you to an increased risk of developing kidney disease if you are obese. People with chronic kidney disease with metabolic syndrome are at a higher risk of progressing to end-stage renal disease.
10. Fatty Liver Disease
When fat deposits in the liver and causes injury, it is referred to as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. At present, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is the most common liver disease in America and affects approximately 10-24% of the global population. The leading cause of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is insulin resistance, a condition in which the reduced effect of insulin on body cells. The most frequently encountered risk factor for insulin resistance is obesity, especially in the abdominal region.
Normally symptomless, the causes of fatty liver are still unexplored. The condition disappears rapidly with weight loss and sometimes develops into nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, the next stage of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Fatty liver may worsen over time and lead to severe liver damage, cirrhosis, and liver failure. Reducing your weight can help reduce the risk of developing a fatty liver. Lowering your body weight to a healthy range may help your fatty liver and possibly reverse the disease to a certain extent.
Gout is an illness that affects the joints and bones commonly resulting from increased uric acid levels in the blood. Uric acid in excess can cause the formation of crystals that deposit in the joints. It is more common in overweight individuals because the body is less efficient at removing uric acid. Additionally, obese individuals produce more insulin, which further inhibits uric acid elimination by the kidneys.
Sudden fluctuations in weight may flare up your gout. Factors that can contribute to it include stress, medications such as diuretics, as well as dehydration. Therefore, if you have a history of the ailment, it is crucial to get a checkup done.
Studies suggest that obese individuals are more likely to have depression than others with healthy weights are. The relationship between the two remains unclear since a biological link between the two is still undefined. However, possible mechanisms may contribute to the ailment, including inflammation activation, insulin resistance, hormonal fluctuations, as well as social and cultural factors.
13. Memory and Cognition
Weight is a potentially modifiable risk factor when it comes to risk factors associated with neurocognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. A meta-analysis of 10 prospective cohort studies involving 42,000 subjects demonstrated a U-shaped association between BMI and Alzheimer’s disease. Compared with being in the healthy weight range, being underweight was associated with a 36% higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease while being obese was associated with a 42% higher risk. Studies also reveal an improvement in symptoms in Alzheimer’s at-risk patients after nutritional intervention. This explains why a healthy diet and lifestyle can help reduce the risk of developing a neurodegenerative disorder following weight loss.
Obesity affects almost every aspect of your health. From increasing one’s predisposition to chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes to hormonal changes, and respiratory disorders – excess weight is the root cause behind a multitude of ailments. Nutritional intervention and a change in lifestyle is the best way to guarantee weight loss. While the journey is not easy, it is beneficial in the end. Fight obesity and extend your lifespan to improve your health as well as of those around you.