Shocking isn’t it?
The number of overweight and obese people has reached epidemic proportions in the United States and worldwide. Data from the National Center for Health Statistics indicate that the prevalence of obesity, defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 kg/m2 or more, increased from 12.8% in the years from 1976 to 1980, to 22.5% in the 1988 to 1994 interval, to 30% in the 1999 and 2000 interval.
Approximately 31% of US adults, about 59 million people, are considered obese, and more than 64% meet the criterion for overweight (BMI = 25 kg/m2).
Obese patients are at increased risk for developing numerous medical problems including insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM), hypertension, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular disease, stroke, sleep apnea, gallbladder disease, hyperuricemia and gout, osteoarthritis, and certain forms of cancers.
Excess body weight is also associated with substantial increases in cardiovascular and all-cause mortality.
Each year, obesity and its complications results in 300,000 deaths and estimated costs in excess of $100 billion. In 1995, obesity accounted for 11% of total national health expenditures and estimated direct medical costs of $52 billion.
Using data from the 1994 National Health Institute Survey (NHIS), Wolf and Colditz estimated the cost of lost productivity as a result of obesity at approx $3.9 billion, a figure that reflected 39.2 million days of missed work, as well as 239 million restricted-activity days, 89.5 million bed-days, and 62.6 million physician visits.
Ample evidence indicates that weight loss, even if moderate, can improve health status and lessen the incidence of obesity-related disease.
Studies show that a 10% decline in body weight reduces death rate by 280 per million and morbidity rates by 400 per million. This chapter summarizes the medical consequences of obesity and benefits of weight loss.
This information, which is important for patients to know, can be used to encourage weight loss for health benefits rather than often unrealistic cosmetic goals.
Losing weight isn’t just about looking good or living a healthy, productive, and comfortable life. Hands down, losing weight is about avoiding the terrible medical consequences that obesity causes.
The growing evidence shows that if you are overweight you are more likely to develop health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain types of cancer, gout (joint pain caused by excess uric acid), and gallbladder disease.
But there is great news! The latest studies show that by losing as little as 10 to 20 pounds you can dramatically improve your overall health status while significantly diminishing your risk of disease.
Lets now go over the medical consequences of obesity in more detail:
Heart disease and stroke are two of the major consequences of obesity, and are the leading causes of death and disability for both men and women in the Western World. Overweight people are more likely to have high blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, than people who are not overweight.
Very high blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fats) can also lead to heart disease and often are linked to being overweight.
Being overweight also contributes to angina (chest pain caused by decreased oxygen to the heart) and sudden death from heart disease or stroke without any signs or symptoms.
The good news is that losing a small amount of weight can reduce your chances of developing heart disease or a stroke. Reducing your weight by 10 percent can decrease your chance of developing heart disease by improving how your heart works, reducing your blood pressure, and reducing the levels of blood cholesterol and triglycerides.
Diabetes Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes in the Western World. Type 2 diabetes reduces your body’s ability to control your blood sugar. It is a major cause of early death, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and blindness.
Statistically, overweight people are twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as people who are not overweight. You can reduce your risk of developing this type of diabetes by both losing weight and by increasing your physical activity.
Furthermore, if you have type 2 diabetes, losing weight and becoming more physically active can help control your blood sugar levels. If you use medicine to control your blood sugar, weight loss and physical activity may make it possible for your family doctor to decrease the amount of medication you need.
Several types of cancer are associated with being overweight. In women, these include cancer of the uterus, gallbladder, cervix, ovary, breast, and colon. Overweight men are at greater risk of developing cancer of the colon, rectum, and prostate.
For some types of cancer, such as colon or breast, it is not clear whether the increased risk is due to the extra weight or to a high-fat and high-calorie diet, this, of course, being strongly associated with weight problems as a consequence.
Sleep apnea is another of the consequences of obesity. The apnea can cause a person to stop breathing for short periods during sleep and to snore heavily.
As a further consequence, there may be daytime sleepiness and in extreme cases the onset of symptoms of heart failure. The risk for sleep apnea increases with higher body weights. Yet again, weight loss ultimately reverses this risk.
Osteoarthritis is a chronic joint disorder that most often affects the joints in your knees, hips, and lower back.
Extra weight appears to increase the risk of osteoarthritis by placing extra pressure on these joints and wearing away the cartilage (tissue that cushions the joints) that normally protects them.
Weight loss can decrease stress on the knees, hips, and lower back and may improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Gout is also one of the consequences of obesity. Gout is a joint disease caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid sometimes forms into solid stone or crystal masses that become deposited in the joints.
Gout is more common in overweight people and the risk of developing the disorder increases in parallel with higher body weights.
Gallbladder disease and gallstones are more common if you are overweight. Again your risk of the disease increases as your weight increases.
It is not clear how being overweight may cause gallbladder disease. But the association may be a consequence of changes in fat and cholesterol handling by the body leading to super-saturation of bile. In a super-saturated state, solid particles form and can block the bile duct.
Usually, this results in a chronic inflammation of the gallbladder and subsequent scarring of the bile duct. Pain, low grade fever, nausea, and vomiting are common symptoms reported by obese patients with gallbladder disease.
If you have any questions about the medical consequences of obesity, please get in touch using our contact page.
– Adapted from the American Family Physician Magazine.