YOU DON'T HAVE
TO LOSE MANY POUNDS TO LOWER YOUR HEALTH RISKS FROM OBESITY.
is not just a cosmetic problem. It's a health hazard. Someone who is 40 percent overweight is twice
as likely to die prematurely as an average-weight person. (This effect is seen after ten to 30 years
of being obese.)
Doctors generally agree that the more obese a person is, the
more likely he or she is to have health problems. Obesity has been linked to several serious medical
conditions, including the following.
Heart disease and stroke
and stroke are the leading causes of death and disability for both
men and women in the United States. Overweight people are more likely to have
a major risk factor for heart disease
and stroke, than people who are not
overweight. Very high blood levels of
cholesterol and triglycerides (blood
fats) 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 percent
can decrease your chance of developing heart disease by improving how your heart works, blood
pressure, and levels of blood cholesterol and triglycerides.
diabetes mellitus (type 2 diabetes)
is the most common type of diabetes in the United States.
Type 2 diabetes reduces your body's ability to control your blood sugar. It is a major cause of
early death, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and blindness. Overweight people are twice as
likely to develop type 2 diabetes as people who are not overweight. You can reduce your risk of
developing this type of diabetes by losing weight and by increasing your physical activity.
If you have type 2 diabetes, losing weight and
becoming more physically active can help control your blood sugar levels. If you use medicine to
control your blood sugar, weight loss and physical activity may make it possible for your doctor to
decrease the amount of medication you need.
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 greater risk for developing cancer of the colon,
rectum, and prostate. 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 and high-calorie diet.
Sleep apnea is a serious condition that is closely associated with being
overweight. Sleep apnea can cause a person to stop breathing for short periods during sleep and to
snore heavily. Sleep apnea may cause daytime sleepiness and even heart failure. The risk for sleep
apnea increases with higher body weights. Weight loss usually improves sleep apnea.
Osteoarthritis is a common joint disorder that most often affects the joints
in your knees, hips, and lower back. Extra weight appears to increase the risk of osteoarthritis by
placing extra pressure on these joints and wearing away the cartilage (tissue that cushions the
joints) that normally protects them. Weight loss can decrease stress on the knees, hips, and lower
back and may improve the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
is a joint disease
caused by high levels of uric acid in the blood. Uric acid sometimes forms into solid stone or
crystal masses that become deposited in the joints. Gout is more common in overweight people and the
risk of developing the disorder increases with higher body weights.
Note: Over the short term, some diets may lead to an
attack of gout in people who have high levels of uric acid or who have had gout before. If you have
a history of gout, check with your doctor or other health professional before trying to lose weight.
Gallbladder disease and
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.
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 one pound a week is less likely to cause gallstones.
Psychological and social effects
One of the most painful aspects of obesity
may be the emotional suffering it causes. Our society places great emphasis on physical appearance,
often equating attractiveness with slimness, especially in women. The messages, intended or not,
make overweight people feel unattractive. Many people assume that obese people are gluttonous, lazy,
or both. However, more and more evidence contradicts this assumption.
Obese people often face prejudice or discrimination
at work, at school, while looking for a job, and in social situations. Feelings of rejection, shame,