Risks and Health Dangers of Overweight and Obesity

Risks and Health Dangers of Overweight and Obesity

Being Overweight Is Risky Business

Though you know in theory that carrying around extra pounds can be harmful, you may not know just how dangerous it can be.

If you are overweight or obese, you may want to lose weight to look and feel your best. But how often do you think about how your weight affects your health?Though you know in theory that carrying around extra pounds can be harmful, you may not know just how dangerous it can be.

Are you at risk?

Body Mass Index (BMI) is the standard measurement of most experts for determining weight risk. BMI is based on a weight-to-height ratio.

Waist circumference can also be used to predict risk. And some studies show that people with a lot of fat around the stomach (“apple” shape) may be at greater risk than those who carry fat around their hips and thighs (“pear” shape).

  • Overweight is defined as a BMI between 25 and 30.
  • Obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 or more.
  • Men are considered at risk if their waist measurement is 40 inches or more (for women, 35 inches or more).

Following are some of the primary conditions where excess weight plays a clear role:

Type 2 diabetes

Ninety percent of people who have type 2 diabetes are overweight.

  • Excess fat can affect how well insulin works, causing insulin resistance that could lead to type 2 diabetes.
  • Obesity can also make drug treatment less effective. This makes it more complicated for you to control your condition if you already have diabetes.

Heart disease and stroke

Too much body fat can lead to a buildup of fatty deposits in your arteries. This raises your chances for heart disease and stroke, even if you don’t have other health risk factors.


This is a chronic condition affecting cartilage, the part of your joints that cushions the ends of bones. When cartilage breaks down, bones rub painfully against each other. Extra weight can put more pressure and wear on joints.


The heavier someone is, the higher the risk for gallstones. Gallstones are masses of cholesterol that form in the gallbladder. People who are obese may also have enlarged gallbladders that don’t work as well.

Women’s reproductive health

Obesity can also have a major impact on a woman’s fertility, such as:

  • Reduced ovulation
  • A lowered response to fertility treatments
  • Decreased pregnancy rate
  • Risks to mother and baby during pregnancy

In addition, obesity has been linked to the following pregnancy complications:

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Cesarean sections
  • Some birth defects
  • Hypertension

Obesity can also lead to post-pregnancy complications, such as urinary tract infections and wounds that do not heal easily.

Sleep apnea

Obesity is the most significant risk factor for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is diagnosed when a person stops breathing for short periods during sleep. About 60 percent to 70 percent of people with the condition are obese. Obesity is also linked to a higher prevalence of asthma and severe bronchitis.


Studies have shown strong links between obesity and the risk of developing several types of cancer. These include cancers of the kidney, pancreas, rectum, esophagus, prostate, colon and ovary. Also:

  • Women who are obese after menopause have a 50 percent higher relative risk of breast cancer.
  • Risk for cancer of the gallbladder is five times higher for obese people.
  • Endometrial cancer (cancer of the uterus) occurs five times more often in obese women.

Small changes, big results

Though extra pounds can damage just about every system in your body, take heart. Some of this damage is reversible or can at least be slowed by losing even just 5 percent of your body weight.

To get started:

  • Aim for a healthy weight. Safe weight loss is 1/2 pound to 2 pounds a week. Don’t go on fad diets.
  • Be active. Exercise at least 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week. Check with your doctor before you increase your activity level.
  • Eat smarter. Make two thirds of your plate fruits and vegetables. Read nutrition labels and learn portion sizes. Choose foods that are low in fat and salt.
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