Health Risks Associated With
Obesity is not just a cosmetic problem. It's a health hazard. Someone
who is 40% overweight is twice as likely to die
prematurely as is an average-weight person. This is
because obesity has been linked to several serious
medical conditions, including:
Doctors generally agree that the more obese a person
is the more likely he or she is to have health problems.
People who are 20% or more overweight can gain
significant health benefits from losing weight. Many
obesity experts believe that people who are less than
20% above their healthy weight should still try to lose
weight if they have any of the following risk factors.
- Family history of certain chronic diseases.
People with close relatives who have had heart
disease or diabetes are more likely to develop these
problems if they are obese.
- Pre-existing medical conditions. High
blood pressure, high
cholesterol levels, or high blood sugar levels
are all warning signs of some obesity-associated
- "Apple" shape. People whose weight is
concentrated around their stomachs may be at greater
risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, or
cancer than people of the same weight who are
"pear-shaped" (they carry their weight in their hips
Fortunately, even a modest weight loss of 10 to 20
pounds can bring significant health improvements, such
as lowering one's blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
How Is Obesity Linked to Heart Disease and Stroke?
Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of
death and disability for people in the U.S. 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 can also lead to heart disease and often are
linked to being overweight. Being overweight also
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% can decrease your
chance of developing heart disease.
How Is Obesity Linked to Diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes reduces your body's ability to
control blood sugar. It is a major cause of early death,
heart disease, stroke, and blindness. Overweight people
are twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes compared
to normal weight people. You can reduce your risk of
developing type 2 diabetes by losing weight and
exercising more. If you have type 2 diabetes, losing
weight and becoming more physically active can help
control your blood sugar levels. Increasing your
physical activity may also allow you to reduce the
amount of diabetes medication you need.
How Is Obesity and Cancer Linked?
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 higher risk
for developing colorectal cancer and
prostate cancer. 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,