Written By: Emma Squillace
Some people think of being overweight or obese as a cosmetic problem. While many of us do want to lose weight so we feel better about our appearance, there are also serious health considerations to carrying extra weight vs being in a “normal” weight range (defined medically as a BMI between 18.5 – 25). People who are obese, defined as a BMI over 30, face increased risk for a range of diseases. Since about 78 million adults in the United States fall into this weight category, the health consequences can be far-reaching. Here are diseases tied to obesity:
Type 2 Diabetes
You may know that type 2 diabetes is a disease where the body doesn’t react properly to insulin, known as insulin resistance. People with type 2 diabetes need to carefully manage their blood sugar, often with medication or daily injections. There is no stronger predictor for getting type 2 diabetes than being obese. In fact, of the people with diabetes, almost 90% of them are either overweight or obese. The Obesity Society cites diabetes as the leading cause of blindness, kidney disease, and non-traumatic foot/leg amputations. Related to about 200,000 deaths per year, diabetes is one of the leading causes of death in the US.
According to over 10 years of research, obesity is a leading contributor to cancer diagnoses, second only to cigarettes. And scientists say that obesity is quickly becoming the number 1 preventable cause of cancer. Obesity has strong ties to some of the most common types of cancer including post-menopausal breast cancer, kidney, thyroid, gallbladder, and colorectal cancers. Not only is extra weight linked to getting cancer, but it’s also linked to lower survival rates once that diagnosis is made. People who are normal weight have a better chance of surviving the most common types of cancer.
The idea of someone snoring when they sleep may seem like an annoyance, but sleep apnea is actually a dangerous disorder. Sleep apnea is more than snoring – it can mean you stop breathing for at least 10 seconds, multiple times per night. People with sleep apnea are not getting adequate rest, which is tied to increased traffic accidents and work-related accidents. Just a 10% increase in body weight can make you 6 times more likely to develop this disorder. It’s also more difficult to lose weight when your body can’t rest at night, so sleep apnea is not only made worse by obesity, but in turn makes it harder to lose weight.
About 1 of every 3 people with obesity has arthritis. This is a potentially disabling condition that makes it difficult to function at work and home. Exercising with arthritis can be particularly challenging, which of course makes losing weight even more of a battle. The good news is that losing weight can prevent further joint damage, so even people with arthritis have a chance to take control over their pain. Every pound of weight you lose is like taking 4 pounds of weight off your knees! So if you lose 50 pounds, that’s the equivalent of 200 fewer pounds of pressure on your knees. That can make a big difference in pain level.
Blood pressure and cholesterol
High blood pressure and high cholesterol are two dangerous conditions, in part because they don’t cause obvious symptoms the way arthritis or sleep apnea do. The two conditions are strongly linked to obesity, with an estimated 75% of high blood pressure tied to excess weight. Both high blood pressure and high cholesterol are linked to heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the US. The good news about high blood pressure and high cholesterol is that both have the potential to be managed with weight loss and lifestyle changes.
Obesity is complex, and becomes even more complex and dangerous when we look at the list of diseases that are linked to being overweight or obese. The good news is that many of the negative effects of obesity can be treated by losing a substantial amount of weight. For example, studies have found that about 60% of people are cured of high cholesterol after bariatric surgery, and type 2 diabetes can be treated with bariatric surgery in almost 90% of cases. If you are struggling with a disease related to being obese, or you want to take charge of your health before you develop a weight-related disease, talk to us about how we can help. You can reach our experts at (855) 690-0565.