Weight-Related Health Effects

by Dr. David Williams
Filed Under: Weight Loss
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

Learn how those extra pounds can compromise your health

As the media-dubbed "obesity epidemic" continues to spread over the last decade or so, I'm fairly confident that nearly everyone can agree that being overweight or obese carries high risks for many negative health effects. If you're looking for more motivation to ditch the extra pounds, one of the best things I can think of is to familiarize yourself with the laundry-list of serious side effects associated with obesity.

Joint problems, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, liver disease, and sleep apnea are just a few of the debilitating conditions linked to excess weight. If you're overweight but haven't yet experienced any health problems, don't wait until you do; take action so you don't have to weather any of these serious issues commonly associated with excess weight.

Joint Pain

People who are overweight often complain of joint pain and arthritis, particularly in the knees. Any extra weight you are carrying will put undue stress on the knee. Just a few extra pounds can cause five or even ten times the amount of normal stress on the ligaments that hold the knee together when you walk or run.

This extra wear and tear on your joints not only leads to pain and decreased mobility, it all too often leads to joint replacement surgeries. Joint replacement surgery was generally thought of as a procedure for older individuals, but now, more than half of the patients requiring hip replacements will be under age 65—and that will also be true for knee replacements by 2016.

The primary reason for these increases is rampant obesity. Even today, surgeons are refusing to perform hip or knee replacements on overweight patients until they lose some weight. It's acknowledgement that the extra weight really is an issue.

Diabetes and BMI

The most significant risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes appears to be that of being overweight. Research shows that while weight, diet, exercise, smoking, and alcohol all play a role in developing type 2 diabetes, the most significant was a person's body mass index (BMI), a measurement of obesity based on height and weight.

Actual BMI Increased risk compared to someone with a BMI of 23
23.1–24.9 2.7 times increased risk
25.0–29.9 7.6 times increased risk
30.0–34.9 20.1 times increased risk
35.0 or greater 38.8 times increased risk

This study found that the ideal BMI was 23.0. As this number increased, so did the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Specifically, reasearchers found that the ideal BMI was 23.0. And as this number increased, so did the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome, also called Syndrome X, is loosely defined as having any three of the following:

  • Abdominal obesity,
  • High triglycerides,
  • High blood sugar,
  • High blood pressure, and
  • Low HDL cholesterol.

It is a precursor to diabetes. In addition to an "early warning sign" of diabetes, metabolic syndrome can also be an indication of impending heart disease. In fact, many people discover they are diabetic only after they experience a heart attack.

One Swedish study revealed that as many as 40 percent of those patients who were admitted with acute myocardial infarction (heart attack) were diabetic but didn't know it.

Liver Disease

When liver disease is mentioned, most people think about either excessive alcohol consumption or viral hepatitis. However, only about a third of all cases of liver disease are related to these problems.

More than 100 different causes of liver disease aren't alcohol-related, obesity has taken the lead among them as the primary cause of liver disease, known as non-alcohol fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Exactly how excess fat damages the liver isn't yet fully understood. However, regardless of whether liver disease stems from alcohol, a viral infection, or obesity, the end result is the same—cirrhosis, which eventually leads to liver failure.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea occurs when the upper airway sags due to excess tissue or loss of muscle tone and blocks the passage of air, resulting in pauses in or even discontinuation of breathing during sleep. It is most common in people who are overweight.

Researchers at Yale School of Medicine found that sleep apnea doubles the risk for the development of stroke and subsequent death. Severe apnea more than triples the risk. What might be even more surprising was that the risk increased without regard to the patient having any of the other usual risk factors for stroke (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, etc.).

While other health problems that provide little warning, sleep apnea give one of the loudest and clearest signals that there's a serious, underlying condition that needs to be addressed—snoring.

You wouldn't even think about ignoring the high-pitched, irritating screech from a smoke alarm, and you certainly shouldn't ignore the ground-shaking snores associated with sleep apnea.

Related Articles & Categories
Enjoy What You've Just Read?

Get it delivered to your inbox! Signup for E-News and you'll get great content like you've just read along with other great tips and guides from Dr. Williams!