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What Are The Negative Health Effects Of Being Overweight?

Last updated Sept. 13, 2016

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD MPH

Tony Alter

Being overweight can have a negative impact on your health. Some of the negative health effects of being obese or overweight include high blood pressure and cholesterol, arthritis, kidney disease, and breathing problems.


Being overweight or obese can have a severe impact on one’s overall health. Your bones are made to handle a certain weight range, and your body's metabolism can only process a certain amount of nutrient intake. However, weight is just a number, and what matters most is one’s body mass index (BMI). The ideal weight for each person is different; it is based on their height and the types of activities they indulge in.

BMI is calculated based on a person’s height and weight, in order to give a rough estimate of the body fat percentage and to determine if the individual is at a healthy weight. BMI is, however, not a perfect measure of one’s health because the muscles weigh more than fat. If a person is extremely muscular, then they often fall out of the normal ranges for a healthy BMI. The best way to determine if you are at a healthy weight is to visit a physician to discuss your weight and activity level.

If someone is overweight, it can lead to a significant amount of health problems. Some of the negative health effects of obesity include the following:

Type 2 diabetes:

Type 2 diabetes is a disease in which blood sugar levels rise dangerously high as a result of insulin insensitivity. This condition occurs in individuals who were born with the ability to make insulin, but over time their cells became unresponsive. The cells lose their capacity to normally take up glucose from the blood like before. This can lead to many problems including improper healing of wounds, blindness, stroke, heart disease, and kidney disease. One’s genetic make-up can predispose certain individuals to diabetes; however, weight, low physical activity level, and an unhealthy diet can also increase one’s risk of type 2 diabetes.

Coronary heart disease:

Coronary heart disease is a progressive buildup of plaque in the coronary arteries that leads to blockages. Such blockages can reduce the ability of your heart to pump blood effectively to the rest of your body, which can result in a heart attack.

High blood pressure:

High blood pressure is an increase in the pressure blood puts on the blood vessels, as it is pumped throughout the body. Any increase in blood pressure can lead to heart problems and stroke.

Stroke:

One type of stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery that is carrying blood to the brain. The result is a loss of blood flow to an area of the brain, causing cell death. Another type of stroke is when a blood vessel ruptures in the brain. This type of stroke puts pressure on the brain, leading to a loss of blood in multiple areas.

High cholesterol:

High cholesterol is an increase in “unhealthy” fats, called low-density lipoproteins (LDL), and a decrease in “healthy” fats, called high-density lipoproteins (HDL), in blood. This can increase your risk of heart disease.

Cancer:

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of mutated cells that eventually leads to healthy cells being unable to function properly. It is unclear why obesity is linked to cancer, but it has been connected to an increased risk for different types of cancer. The National Cancer Institute informs in their report that about 4-7% of the cancer in American men and women in 2007 were due to obesity.

Arthritis:

Being overweight puts excess pressure on the joints, leading to additional stress and deterioration. Arthritis is a painful condition that impairs joint mobility and stiffness.

Kidney disease:

Kidney disease occurs when the kidneys are unable to properly filter the toxins out of the body, leading to a buildup of unhealthy waste products. Kidney disease can have major adverse impacts on your health and it is often caused by diabetes and high blood pressure.

Reproductive problems:

Obesity can make it very difficult to get pregnant because it can cause abnormal menstrual cycles and infertility. During pregnancy, it causes an increased risk of multiple complications for both the mother and child. This may lead to an increased risk of birth defects and stillbirths.

Breathing problems:

Being overweight puts increased pressure on the lungs, which can cause difficulty breathing. It can also lead to several other problems like sleep apnea and obesity hypoventilation syndrome.

References:

http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/index.html#Interpreted (accessed on November 26, 2014)

http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/effects/ (accessed on November 26, 2014)

http://win.niddk.nih.gov/publications/health_risks.htm (accessed on November 26, 2014)

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/obe/risks (accessed on November 26, 2014)

http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/hemorrhagic-stroke-treatment#2 (accessed on November 26, 2014)

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Williams, J., Wake, M., Hesketh, K., Maher, E., & Waters, E. (2005). Health-related quality of life of overweight and obese children. Jama, 293(1), 70-76.

Wyatt, S. B., Winters, K. P., & Dubbert, P. M. (2006). Overweight and obesity: prevalence, consequences, and causes of a growing public health problem. The American journal of the medical sciences, 331(4), 166-174.

Swallen, K. C., Reither, E. N., Haas, S. A., & Meier, A. M. (2005). Overweight, obesity, and health-related quality of life among adolescents: the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Pediatrics, 115(2), 340-347.

Larsson, U., Karlsson, J., & Sullivan, M. (2002). Impact of overweight and obesity on health-related quality of life--a Swedish population study.International Journal of Obesity & Related Metabolic Disorders, 26(3).

Dixon, J. B. (2010). The effect of obesity on health outcomes. Molecular and cellular endocrinology, 316(2), 104-108.

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Sept. 13, 2016
Last updated: Sept. 13, 2016