Health Risks Associated with Obesity (cont.)

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 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% 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, high-calorie diet.

How Is Obesity Related to Gallbladder Disease?

Gallbladder disease and gallstones are more common if you are overweight. Your risk of disease increases as your weight increases. It is not clear how being overweight may cause gallbladder disease.

Ironically, weight loss itself, particularly rapid weight loss or loss of a large amount of weight, can actually increase your chances of developing gallstones. Modest, slow weight loss of about 1 pound a week is less likely to cause gallstones.