How Obesity Can Hurt Your Health

December 2, 2010

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obesity and healthYou know that being overweight isn’t healthy. But do you know why, or what the increased health risks are?

Obesity has a multifactorial effect on your health. Being obese can contribute in one way or another to diseases affecting all of the major systems and organs in the body. In fact, obesity can increase the risk of more than 50 health conditions including:

Cardiovascular problems: Hyperlipidemia, cor pulmonale (pulmonary heart disease), congestive heart failure, enlarged heart, varicose veins, pulmonary embolism.

Endocrine problems: Polycystic ovarian syndrome, menstrual disorder, infertility, adult onset (type 2) diabetes mellitus and its related complications like neuropathy, renal failure, extremity amputations, and blindness.

Gastrointestinal problems: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), fatty liver disease, gallstones, hernia, colon cancer, liver cancer, gallbladder cancer, rectal cancer, stomach cancer, esophageal cancer.

Kidney, urinary, or reproductive problems: Erectile dysfunction, urinary incontinence, chronic renal failure, hypogonadism, breast cancer, uterine cancer, cervical cancer, endometrial cancer, prostate cancer, infertility.

Skin and appendage problems: Stretch marks, lymphedema (swelling in arms or legs caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system), acanthosis nigricans (hyperpigmentation of the skin), cellulitis (a noncontagious spreading bacteria skin infection), carbuncles (pus-filled bumps that form under the skin), intertrigo (an inflammation of skin folds), wound infections.

Musculoskeletal problems: Immobility, hyperuricemia (excess uric acid in the blood), osteoarthritis, low back pain.

Neurologic problems: Stroke, meralgia paresthetica (compressed nerves in the outer thigh), headache, carpal tunnel syndrome, dementia.

Respiratory problems: Dyspnea (difficulty breathing), obstructive sleep apnea, obesity hypoventilation syndrome (also called Pickwickian syndrome, when poor breathing can lead to lower oxygen levels and higher carbon dioxide levels in the blood), asthma.

Psychological problems: Depression, low self-esteem, body dysmorphic disorder, social stigmatization.

As you can see, the argument could be made that obesity can contribute to almost all disease. It also seems to speed up the aging process, meaning that diseases occur sooner than they would have otherwise.

The good news is that even if you’re already experiencing health problems from obesity or if you have been overweight for some time, it’s never too late to lose weight and improve your health.

In fact, in many cases, losing weight may be all that is needed to eliminate the problem, and the need for any related medications or treatments. Just a 10 percent weight loss (20 out of 200 pounds), for example, can reduce the risk of diabetes or high blood pressure by as much as 80 percent!

A perfect case in point was a man I first met when he was in his late 40s and weighed in excess of 500 pounds. At that time he was on 19 prescription medications, had multiple health problems, had been house-bound for more than two years, and could not walk further than 4 feet at a time on his own.

He wanted bariatric surgery, but because of his weight and health problems we decided he needed to lose weight first, so we put him on The Center for Medical Weight Loss program. Just 15 months later, he’s not only lost 250 pounds without surgery, he’s off 15 of his medications, and can now walk ¼ mile without stopping! He tells me he feels like a whole different person and that his life has changed for the better.

So no matter what your weight or what health problems you may have as a result, just like him you can turn your health around simply by losing the excess weight.

Dr. Michael Kaplan

Founder and Chief Medical Officer

The Center for Medical Weight Loss

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