Obesity defined as an excessive accumulation of body fats is known to be associated with multiple life-threatening health conditions. According to the World Health Organization obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of equal or greater than 30. This article aims to guide you on obesity and health risks associated with it.
It very hard to make a change to lose weight if you don’t know the health consequences related to obesity. The same applies if you don’t know what causes obesity or overweight.
The prevalence of obesity and overweight has risen dramatically all around the world and predicted to continue increasing for the next coming decades. In 2030, it is estimated that more than one billion people globally will fall into the category of obesity.
The WHO organization has already declared obesity a public health problem that needs to be addressed. Worldwide overweight and obesity are linked to more deaths as compared to deaths caused by underweight.
Obesity or overweight is rarely mentioned as the cause of death, but its complications are the ones to blame for a person’s death. Carrying extra body weight simply multiplies your risks for developing obesity-related health problems.
Studies have reviewed obesity-related diseases most of them chronic and non- communicable in nature accounting for about 75 percent of the healthcare costs in the United States of America.
Many complications in obese people may manifest as a result of metabolic dysfunction, chronic inflammation, and extra weight. Let’s look at some major serious health conditions associated with obesity and how they manifest.
Hypertension is one of the health conditions with high prevalence in obese and overweight people. It manifests due to the accumulation of fatty tissues and the expansion of the cardiovascular system. Fat tissue just Like any tissue in the body requires oxygen and nutrients supplied by blood vessels to live.
The cardiovascular system needs to expand its blood vessels and volume to reach to these fatty tissues. These put extra workloads on the heart and increases the blood volume that resulted in high-pressure.
Hypertension also manifests due to the building up of fats in the blood vessels that narrow the lumen in the blood vessels and cause high pressure.
Heart diseases in obese people manifest from many factors. It may develop secondary from hypertension because the increased volume and pressure in the blood vessels add extra workload to the heart leading to heart problems.
Another reason why heart diseases manifest in obese people may be due to a condition called Atherosclerosis (fats build up in the blood vessels)
Atherosclerosis narrows the blood vessels lumen, reduces the blood flow, causes hypertension that leads to heart diseases. Studies have reviewed atherosclerosis to be 10 times more common in obese people than normal-weight people.
Coronary heart diseases manifest if atherosclerosis develops in the special blood vessels that supply blood to the heart (coronary arteries) resulted in less blood flow to the heart. In this condition, the heart works under stress condition and an individual may experience chest pain and develop a condition called Angina.
Because of hypertension, narrowing of blood vessels lumen and build-up of fats; blood clots may form in the blood circulation and block blood vessels leading the development of diseases like stroke and heart attacks.
Type2 diabetes (diabetes that usually develops in adulthood) is very common in obese people. There is obviously a positive energy balance in obese people and when the body cells fail to handle the excess nutrients, a membranous structure inside cells called endoplasmic reticulum (ER) sends signals that suppress the insulin receptors on the cell membrane.
This causes the insulin (the hormone that regulates blood glucose) to be unable to control the blood sugar resulting in high blood sugar levels hence a condition called diabetes Type 2.
Joint problems usually develop in obese or overweight people because of carrying extra weight that exerts pressure on joints and possibly damages them. An individual then may present with joint pain or reduced mobility.
Cancer risks increased in obese than normal-weight people. Many factors seem to explain the reasons. For instance; some cancers are sensitive to high levels of estrogen (a female sex hormone) normally produced by ovaries.
But fat tissues in obese people produce estrogen as well. This is the reason why obese women have high levels of estrogen however, high levels of estrogen increase risks of developing cancer of breasts, ovaries and endometrial.
Production of estrogen by fatty tissues should be a concern in child obesity because they will stay with high levels of estrogen in their bodies for many years of their life, which increase the risks of these cancers several times.
The other reason why cancer is common in obese people may be due to the presence of constant inflammation. The excess fat tissues in obese people do not get enough oxygen this resulted in inflammation (less like an injury) to these cells that is chronic.
Chronic inflammation levels resulted in uncontrollable cell multiplication (cancer), which form masses (tumors) that damage the tissues and organs around them before the development of an illness.
Sleep apnea is a very common problem among obese people, it manifest due to fatty tissues on the throat that obstruct the airway during sleep. The problem is usually unnoticed by the owner, but a partner can only notice it when someone is loudly snoring. By nature , skeletal muscles relaxes during sleeep and this causes an obstruction in obese people.
If the problem is left undiagnosed and untreated is it directly linked to serious health conditions such as heart diseases, diabetes, stroke, depression, and many other conditions.
Obesity gradually causes internal changes to the body that may be very difficult to notice right away. Here are some of the signs and symptoms that may be associated to the development or specific health problem in obese people.
The feeling of tired is associated with many factors but in obese people, fatigue may be associated with sleeping problems, inflammation, medical illnesses (diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease), psychological disorders and even metabolic dysfunction.
Increased sweating develops in obese people due to the extra layer of fats deposited under the skin which acts as an insulator and prevents radiation of heat from the skin, therefore sweating occurs to cool the body.
Sweating can also occur due to a medical problem that causes fever and it need the doctor to address it.
Reduced physical activities is common among the morbidly obese people because of carrying extra too much weight. Physical activities are inversily proportion to the gained weight: the more weight gained, the less physically active the person becomes and vise Versa.
Depression and obesity often appear together and it may be difficult to point out which one causes the other. However, the relationship between the two is still bi-directional and studies are still underway. But depression is a health problem that needs to be addressed.
Low confidence and self-esteem is usually due to social stigma and other factors attached to being obese. Many people only focus on the physical part of obesity and neglecting the emotional part which contribute much to the health of a person.
Sexual and fertility problems: Studies have shown obese men having erectile dysfunction and reduced sperm count while women present with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOs) that primarily may cause infertility. has a huge impact on pregnancy, its outcomes and even child health after birth.
Obese pregnant women have increased risk of premature birth, birth defects, miscarriage and stillbirth, sleep apnea, preeclampsia, and gestation diabetes. Even the child borne from an obese mother has a high chances of getting obesity later in life.
Is your weight healthy?
There are many tools available to help you check and monitor on the status of your body weight, that is important to make a desion whether to lose some weight if you are overweight/obese or maintain it if you are within normal weight.
BMI is one of the commonly used methods. Check on my previous article on how to calculate BMI explained on BMI. This method is easy to use and does not require expert help. It is good for establishing if you are losing or gaining some weight but the method is flawed because it does not give you the percentage of body fats and fat distribution.
Waist to hip ratio is another recommended method. A tape measure is used to record the smallest waist circumference just above the belly button and hip circumference across the buttocks at the widest part. Get the ratio and compare it to the table below.
|Waist to hip Ratio||Ideal||Low risk||Moderate risk||High risk|
|Women||0.7||<0.8||0.81 – 0.84||>0.85|
|Men||0.8||<0.95||0.96 – 0.99||>1.0|
The method is good for measuring fat distribution around the waist (apple-shaped obesity). A higher ratio indicates too much intra abdominal fat that surrounds important organs like the kidneys, liver, and pancreas. The method is a better predictor of your chances of developing health risks such as heart diseases.
The third method is body fat percentage that uses a special caliper to measure body fat by pinching the skin on the abdomen, thigh, chest and upper arm.
This method provides a more accurate result on body fat as compared to the BMI method.
My suggestions for obese or overweight people
Beginners on weight loss may wonder where to start from with their program. For a start you can check on how to lose weight and atleast have some ideas. The best time to start is now and thus one of the great decision you have made for your life.
Roughly start by making adjustments on diet, reduce the amount of food intake especially on carbohydrates, and dump fructose/sugary or artificial sweetened processed foods. Choose your foods carefully, prioritize those with few calories. Healthy fats and proteins helps to you to feel full longer.
Increase your physical activities such as taking a walk instead of using an elevator. It is also advised to start your exercises slowly and gradually increase to prevent injuries while burning your calories. Simple exercises are very critical for body adaption to exercises before starting high intensity exercises.
Incorporate high-intensity exercises in your workout to burn more calories and build health muscles that improve overall mobility and health.
Plan to seek behavior change counseling with a specialist if you are having challenges with behavior change or emotion disorders. Specialists can get to the bottom of the problem and address the root causes to eliminate those food cravings behaviors.
High costs associated with obesity
Some people have registered to be obese and metabolically healthy but that does not mean they are immune to negative effects of obesity. Studies have shown obesity to eventually take a toll on their health as the number of years adds. Mostly obesity-related health problem becomes very prominent after 40 years.
Obesity involved financial costs both direct and indirect costs. Direct cost is used for prevention, diagnosis and treatment costs while indirect costs involve the morbidity and mortality related costs such as costs incurred for decreased productivity or absence from work because of an illness.
On average obese people miss one to five working days per year as compared to healthy weight individuals. Obesity is also associated with higher disability and earlier retirement.
Additional costs can be involved in transportation when traveling as most of the airline companies require an obese passenger to purchase two sits instead of one.
One study showed that the financial effects of obesity are not only limited per individual but also the whole economy at every level. The costs of obesity globally were roughly almost equal to smoking and war costs.
However, weight loss is linked to significant money-saving on health insurance, out-of-pocket healthcare costs and also an improvement in productivity in the workforce.
Take home message
Obese people are generally at high risk of developing obese related health problems that are known to have detrimental health effects. Many of these conditions are avoidable through weight loss.
Strive to achieve a healthy weight so that you can avoid obesity and the development of these life-threatening health conditions and lead a quality life.
Fortunately optimizing your diet and physical activities can prevent obesity, and there are many other strategies, which can be used to achieve an optimal healthy weight.
Check regularly on your weight status using different methods discussed above to make sure than you are within the normal weight category or to keep track of your weight loss program.