What Are the Risks of Obesity?
We’re at a time when people are thinking more about their health than maybe ever before. One of the pre-existing conditions that is prevalent in the U.S. and many countries globally is obesity. Sometimes we don’t necessarily think of it as a pre-existing condition, but that’s the reality.
There are so many widely varying factors that are considered risks of obesity.
Some of these risks aren’t even directly related to health.
For example, if you’re obese and in a car accident, your risk of serious injury or death is higher.
One reason is because of driver fatigue. Obesity is linked to sleep apnea, and if you have sleep apnea, you are at greater risk of being in an accident.
Also, if you’re larger than the average physical build a car might be designed for, it can make safety features like seat belts and airbags less effective.
What are the other risks of obesity to be aware of?
Obesity and COVID-19
While being obese doesn’t put you at a higher risk of actually contracting COVID-19, there is research indicating obesity can lead to more severe outcomes.
Even compared to risk factors like hypertension and diabetes, severe obesity puts people with COVID-19 at an especially high risk of death, according to research published by Kaiser Permanente.
The same research showed obesity is an especially high risk for younger people with COVID-10 and men.
Some of the reasons for this named by researchers include increased inflammation and sleep apnea.
Being severely obese can also make it harder to breathe, and there’s something called adipose tissue that attracts the virus that causes COVID-19. Adipose tissue is found in fat.
Type 2 Diabetes
When blood sugar levels are too high, it can cause type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is considered a chronic lifestyle illness. It’s not the same as type 1 diabetes, which is an autoimmune disease.
There are different theories as to why type 2 diabetes is so prevalent in people with obesity. It could be that being overweight leads to cellular changes. Then, as a result of those changes, the cells are more resistant to insulin.
When you’re insulin resistant, your blood sugar can’t be taken up by your cells, so your blood sugar levels are high.
Losing just 5 to 7 percent of your body weight and doing moderate-intensity exercise every week can prevent or delay the development of type 2 diabetes.
When you have extra weight, you are more likely to have high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Both of these are risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
Losing even just a small amount of weight can significantly reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
High blood pressure can occur when you’re obese because your heart needs to pump harder to make sure all of your cells are getting blood.
If you have extra fat, it can lead to kidney damage as well. Your kidneys help regulate blood pressure.
Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. When your cells grow abnormally and out-of-control, they can spread to other areas of your body.
If you’re overweight, it can increase your risk of several types of cancer. This may be because fat cells release certain hormones that impact cell growth. That can then lead to cancer.
Also, lifestyle factors such as diet or lack of exercise can contribute to the risk of cancer.
Being overweight is linked to an increased risk of breast, colon, rectum, gallbladder, and kidney cancers in particular.
Fatty Liver Disease
Fatty liver disease is also called nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. When fat builds up in the liver, it can cause injury.
Fatty liver disease isn’t the same as alcoholic liver disease. It most often affects people who are middle-aged and overweight or obese.
Fatty liver disease can lead to cirrhosis, severe liver damage, and in some cases, liver failure.
If you are overweight or obese, it increases health problems for both a mother and baby during pregnancy.
Specifically, if you’re overweight during pregnancy, there is a greater risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, which is high blood pressure. You may be more likely to need a C-section as well.
While it’s scary to learn about the far-reaching effects of obesity, there are also things you can do today to change the trajectory for yourself. Just adding a bit of exercise into your routine each day or focusing on eating whole foods rather than processed foods can go a long way.