The Bariatric and Hernia Institute
7500 Greenway Center Drive
Greenbelt, MD 20770
Effects Of Obesity On Health
Obesity is a disease of excess fat deposition throughout the body. It is caused by a complex interaction of genetics, individual metabolism, lifestyle, behavior and environmental factors.
Most individuals that suffer from obesity have a long history of gradual weight gain over many years that has been difficult to manage. The excess weight affects most organ systems of the body over time. Most people know about the common effects such as diabetes and high blood pressure but there are many other effects.
Cardiovascular disease can manifest as high blood pressure, heart failure, coronary artery disease with chest pains and a risk of early heart attacks, and leg swelling from disorders of the veins.
Respiratory disease is perhaps one of the most overlooked problems associated with obesity. Many individuals who are struggling with their weight also struggle with shortness of breath when active. They get winded if they walk long distances, run, or even climb a flight of stairs. Others have problems such as sleep apnea that is often undiagnosed.
There are many metabolic effects such a predisposition to diabetes mellitus that can be very difficult to control and at times requiring a combination of insulin and tablets. Other metabolic problems include high cholesterol and gout.
The gastrointestinal system can be affected with problems such as heartburn (reflux, GERD), gallbladder disease, and fatty liver disease.
The bones and joints are affected in the vast number of people with obesity. Many people have arthritis with complaints of pain in the knees or hips. Some folks will get severe back pain that limits their daily activities. Others are disabled by the severity of the arthritis.
Conditions in other body systems include menstrual irregularities, infertility, polycystic ovarian disease, stress incontinence, depression, and fibromyalgia.
This partial list of health effects, along with others, combine to negatively affect quality of life. Many people with obesity require multiple medications, require frequent medical care or hospitalizations, they face higher health care costs and tend to have decreased productivity because of their health.
Effective weight management requires a committed, sustainable approach to lifestyle and behaviors that promote weight loss over time. Diets, exercise routines, medications, and surgery are all tools that can be used as a part of a long-term plan for weight management. Effective weight management will help avoid and even reverse many of the health effects of obesity.