Obesity: Lesser-Known Complications
Written By: Emma Squillace
When doctors talk about the medical dangers of obesity, they often cite type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease as top comorbidities. This is for good reason, since carrying excess weight is closely linked with these life-threatening conditions. In fact, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, and complications from diabetes are estimated to be the number 3 cause of death in the US. However, there are health risks of diabetes beyond these most-often discussed ones, that we will review today.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
In many cases we think of alcohol causing liver disease, and often that is true. However there is another type of liver disease that’s tied not to drinking alcohol, but to being obese. Obesity is known to cause nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). It is estimated that about 29 million Americans have NAFLD, and this is particularly dangerous because that can lead to liver failure. Because NAFLD does not have many symptoms, in some cases people are far along in their disease before they know they have it. The good news is that losing weight can substantially improve NAFLD. In particular, patients with NAFLD who have bariatric surgery tend to show strong liver improvement in relation to the weight they lose.
Gallbladder disease is not a condition most of us hear about very often. The gallbladder is a small organ that stores bile. This organ can become diseased, commonly with gallstones, polyps, and in some cases gallbladder cancer. Being obese is linked to an increase in gallbladder diseases, and studies show that almost 70% of people with gallbladder diseases are overweight or obese. For people with morbid obesity, studies estimate that the majority of them will have gallbladder disease. The American Cancer Society recommends losing weight and/or staying at a healthy weight, as an important step to take in lowering the risk of developing gallbladder cancer. One tricky aspect to gallbladder disease is it can also be triggered by a quick loss of weight, so bariatric surgeons are well-trained to discuss this potential with patients.
Each year, almost 800,000 people in America have a stroke. A stroke happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off. Having a stroke is a leading cause of death, as well as the number one cause for long-term disability in the US. People with obesity are more likely to have a stroke, compared to people of normal weight. It is believed that this increase in stroke risk is related to inflammation which is caused by excess fat tissue in the body. This fat can create difficulties with blood flow, and an increase in the risk of a blockage. In addition to obesity being a potential direct cause of stroke, excess weight is tied to high blood pressure and diabetes – which are also significant risk factors for strokes.
At West Medical, we treat obesity because it is a substantial health issue. Obesity is linked to the most common causes of death, as well as diseases that can seriously impact your quality of life. In many cases, losing weight sooner rather than later is important. Instead of waiting to see if you’re able to lose weight next time you diet, we encourage you to take the first steps in learning about surgical and non-surgical weight loss options today. That way you can become educated in your treatment options, as well as your health risks. You can then make the decision that is best for you and your health, when you are ready. No matter what stage of your journey you’re at, we’re happy to answer any questions you have. We can be reached at (855) 690-0565.