What Are the Effects of Obesity?
Morbid obesity brings with it an increased risk for a shorter life expectancy. For individuals whose weight exceeds twice their ideal body weight (that's about 2-6% of the U.S. population), the risk of an early death is doubled compared to non-obese individuals. The risk of death from diabetes or heart attack is five to seven times greater.
Even beyond the issue of obesity-related health conditions, weight gain alone can lead to a condition known as "end-stage" obesity where, for the most part, no treatment options are available. Yet an early death is not the only potential consequence. Social, psychological and economic effects of morbid obesity, however unfair, are real and can be especially devastating.
A partial list of some of the more common conditions that may accompany obesity follows. Your doctor can provide you with a more detailed and complete list.
Type 2 Diabetes. Obese individuals develop a resistance to insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels. Over time, the resulting high blood sugar can cause serious damage to the body. For more information on managing diabetes, please visit Diabetes Classes on our website.
High blood pressure/Heart disease. Excess body weight strains the ability of the heart to function properly. The resulting hypertension (high blood pressure) can result in strokes, as well as inflict significant heart and kidney damage. Blood pressure is also a controllable risk factor of heart disease.
Osteoarthritis of weight-bearing joints. The additional weight placed on joints, particularly knees and hips, results in rapid wear and tear, along with pain caused by inflammation. Similarly, bones and muscles of the back are constantly strained, resulting in disk problems, pain and decreased mobility. Our joint pain videos offer additional information to help you recognize the symptoms of joint pain and gettingproper diagnosis to make sure the correct steps are taken to alleviate pain.
Sleep apnea/Respiratory problems. Fat deposits in the tongue and neck can cause intermittent obstruction of the air passage. Because the obstruction is increased when sleeping on your back, you may find yourself waking frequently to reposition yourself. The resulting loss of sleep often results in daytime drowsiness and headaches.
Gastroesophageal reflux/Heartburn. Acid belongs in the stomach and seldom causes any problem when it stays there. When acid escapes into the esophagus through a weak or overloaded valve at the top of the stomach, the result is called gastroesophageal reflux, and "heartburn" and acid indigestion are common symptoms.
Depression. Seriously overweight persons face constant challenges to their emotions: repeated failure with dieting, disapproval from family and friends, sneers and remarks from strangers. They often experience discrimination at work, cannot fit comfortably in theatre seats or ride in a bus or plane.
Infertility. The inability or diminished ability to produce offspring.
Menstrual irregularities. Morbidly obese individuals often experience disruptions of the menstrual cycle, including interruption of the menstrual cycle, abnormal menstrual flow and increased pain associated with the menstrual cycle.
Urinary Stress Incontinence. A large, heavy abdomen and relaxation of the pelvic muscles, especially associated with the effects of childbirth, may cause the valve on the urinary bladder to be weakened, leading to leakage of urine with coughing, sneezing or laughing. (Our Women's Health Center offers additional information about specialized therapy available for urinary stress incontinence.)