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Obesity Health Risks

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Health Risks due to Obesity

Obesity has a number of health risks which might vary from person to person. But it can be called the root of all diseases.

Increased Health Risk of Heart Disease

One of the organs to be worst hit by obesity is the heart and its consequences can be fatal as well. In order to understand the dilapidating affect of obesity on the heart, let us first understand why it has a negative impact on the heart.

  • Obesity raises the raises blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
  • It lowers HDL "good" cholesterol.
  • It raises blood pressure levels.
  • The fat lining in the blood vessels exerts more pressure on the heart.
  • It impairs the diastolic and systolic functions in both ventricles

Various types of heart ailments that can be the outcome of obesity are:

  • Risk of heart attack –This is one of the leading killers in America. Heart attacks occur due to plaque that accumulates in the arteries over the years. AN area of plaque ruptures causing a blood clot which in turn blocks the flow of oxygen rich blood.

  • Sudden cardiac death –This is a situation in which the heart suddenly stops working without any warning and no blood can be circulated in the body
  • Angina –Angina is a condition in which a specific area of the heart does not receive oxygen-rich blood and it causes chest pain. The pain may be like a pressure or a constriction. Some patients also experience pain in the jaw, neck, shoulders or arms.
  • Congestive heart failure –In this condition, the heart keeps working but inefficiently. Thus it cannot pump ample oxygen-rich blood to other parts of the body. As a result the patient feels exhausted, tired and short of breath.
  • Coronary heart disease –The condition when there is not sufficient circulation of blood to the cardiac muscle and its surrounding tissue is referred to as Coronary Heart Disease.
  • Left ventricular hypertrophy –An enlargement of the muscle tissue that makes up the wall of the heart’s main pumping chamber is known as Left Ventricular hypertrophy.
  • Hypertension –Hypertension or high blood pressure is a direct outcome of obesity. Normal blood pressure is generally 120/80mm Hg. If it is higher than this consistently it is termed as hypertension.

Hypertension in itself can lead to various other ailments like heart attacks, stroke, hardening of arteries, heart failure or a stroke.

There is excess of adipose tissue (fat) in an obese person. The fat secretes substances which when acted upon by the kidneys cause hypertension.

Increased Risk of Stroke

A research was carried in Sweden on healthy men in the age group of 47 and 55. These people were followed up for 28 years. The researchers concluded that those people who were obese in middle age had an increased risk of stroke in later life. The risk of stroke was almost doubled in obese people.

Atherosclerosis i.e. narrowing of arteries occurs due to obesity and can lead to a blood clot. It is such blood clotting that causes a stroke. People with abdominal obesity are more likely to be the victims of a stroke.

Increased Risk of Diabetes

According to a survey in the year 2007, about 23.6 million i.e. 7.8 percent of the American population suffers from diabetes.

Diabetes is a disorder in which the body cells fail to utilize glucose in the blood. In Type 2 Diabetes, the body is either unable to produce insulin or it does not respond to it.

An 11- 18 pounds of weight gain makes a person twice susceptible to diabetes. It has been found that over 80% of diabetics are either overweight or obese.

Increased Risk of Cancers

Obesity has been linked with an increased risk of various types of cancers – colon, gall bladder, uterus, kidney, prostrate, esophagus, ovaries, pancreas, liver, stomach, cervix and breast cancer.

It has also been demonstrated that the recurrence of cancers is more prevalent in obese people. Similarly, obese people are more likely to die due to cancers.

It has also been shown that obese people have more fat tissue, which can produce more hormones, such as insulin and estrogen. Excess of insulin and estrogen can lead to development of cancer cells.

This clearly exhibits the relationship between obesity and cancer.

Increased Risk of Fatty Liver Disease

Accumulation of fat in the liver can lead to Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The disease can have three types of effects – accumulation of fat in the liver, fat in the liver causing liver inflammation and scarring of the liver causing chronic liver inflammation.

Research has indicated a direct relation between obesity and the extent of liver damage. Higher the BMI, greater the damage.

NAFLD is considered to be the most common liver disease in the US. It is estimated that about 10 – 24% people in the world are affected by this disease.

Increased Risk of Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Though no direct link has been established between obesity and chronic insufficiency yet it is considered to be an important risk factor for the condition. Obesity leads to raised blood pressure, sedentary lifestyle and immobility. All these factors lead to improper blood flow to the extremities resulting in vascular problems.

It has been clearly established that obese women are more likely to develop varicose veins.

Increased Risk of Gallbladder Disease

Statistics show that more than 25 million Americans have gallstones and approximately one million of them are diagnosed each year.

Statistics also indicate that the risk of having gallstones is three times higher in obese people than the people with normal weight. The incidence of having gallstones increases with the increase in BMI.

It is believed that excess of cholesterol in bile leads to gall stones.

Increased Risk of Breathing Problems

Obesity leads to fat tissue accumulation which in turn impairs ventilatory function. Increasing BMI is also linked with reduction in forced expiratory volume in one second, total lung capacity, expiratory reserve volume, forced vital capacity and functional residual capacity. Obesity reduces chest wall compliance and respiratory muscle strength. Thus there is an imbalance between the demand and supply chain. This results in extra burden and increases the work of breathing. This can lead to various respiratory problems like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, obstructive sleep apnea, chronic bronchitis, respiratory insufficiency and obesity hypoventilation syndrome.

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a condition which is a combination of chronic bronchitis and emphysema as the airways become narrowed. Thus there is a deficiency of the flow of air to and from the lungs causing shortness of breath.
  • Chronic Bronchitis causes a long term inflammation of the bronchi. The patient has increased mucus production and coughs.
  • Asthma - It is a condition in which there is narrowing and inflammation of the airways. It causes recurrent bouts of wheezing shortness of breath, coughing and chest tightness.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which the patient experiences interrupted breathing during sleep. This causes sleepiness during the day, dry throat, morning headaches, learning problems and lack of concentration.
    Approximately 12 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea.
  • Respiratory insufficiency – In this respiratory disorder, the lungs are unable to take in sufficient oxygen nor are they able to expel sufficient carbon dioxide.
  • Obesity hypoventilation syndrome - Obesity causes hypoventilation syndrome (OHS) which is a condition in which poor breathing leads to lower oxygen levels and higher carbon dioxide levels in the blood.
  • Dyspnea - It is a breathing condition in which the person feels suffocated as he has difficulty in breathing. It is also known as air hunger.

Increased Risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis

In Deep Vein Thrombosis there is a blood clot in a deep vein. Obesity is considered to be a risk factor though history, immobility, age and illness play a major role.

Increased Risk of Arthritis

Obesity is considered to be the root cause of many musculoskeletal disorders. The risk of osteoarthritis increases with every 2pound weight gain. With the passage of time it leads to wearing away of joints and cartilage. As a result the patient experiences pain, stiffness and loss of mobility of the joints.

Obesity is a major risk factor for deterioration of the hip, knee, ankle, shoulder and foot joints. It increases the risk of arthritis and fractures. Statistics and research have also shown that obesity affects tendons, cartilage and fascia as well.

Increased Risk of Gout

The disease is an outcome of high levels of uric acid in the blood. The uric acid at times turns into a solid mass and gets deposited in the joints. Statistics indicate that gout is more prevalent in obese people. The risk of developing gout increases with increase in body weight.

Increased Risk of Kidney Problems

Dr Elisabeth Ejerblad of Uppsala University, Sweden says, “Our results confirm an accumulating body of clinical and experimental data implicating obesity as an important causative factor in kidney disease.”

Obesity can ultimately lead to chronic renal failure that can cause end-stage renal disease (ESRD), a permanent loss of kidney function requiring dialysis or kidney transplantation.

Increased Risk of Premature Death

A recent study shows that obese teens and people who smoke half a pack of cigarettes have similar risk of premature death. It has been established that the risk of premature death increases with increase in weight. A weight gain of 10-20 pounds can also increase risk of death. But obese people who have BMI greater than 30 are at a 50 – 100 % risk of premature death which can be due to various reasons associated with obesity.

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