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8 Reasons Why Obesity Needs To Be Tackled Now

Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD. Last updated on March 29, 2021.

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Am I Obese?

Determining your weight status is a sobering task.

But it's good place to start to determine your risk of dangerous health condition and to determine if you need to take action.

Your Body Mass Index (BMI) is one tool used to determine if you're of healthy weight, overweight, or obese. But a discussion with your doctor is also in order, even if you have a healthy weight, to identify any medical concerns.

In addition, obesity has been identified as a risk factor for having serious outcomes, such as hospitalization and death, due to the COVID-19 viral infection.

How to Calculate Your Body Mass Index (BMI)

BMI Category Chart

  • Below 18.5 -- Underweight

  • 18.5 – 24.9 -- Healthy weight

  • 25.0 – 29.9 -- Overweight

  • 30.0 – 39.9 -- Obese

  • Over 40 -- Morbidly obese

Learn More:

Too Much Sugar in the Blood and Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes reduces your body's ability to control blood sugar. It is a major cause of early death, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke and blindness. Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include:

  • age
  • family history
  • high cholesterol
  • overweight and obesity.

However, the single top predictor of having type 2 diabetes is being overweight or obese. In fact, almost 90% of people living with type 2 diabetes have a weight concern.

Diabetes cases among American adults have increased fourfold since the 1980's, and additional increases are expected, primarily due to the growing obesity epidemic.

Related Info: Drugs.com Obesity and Weight Loss Resource Center

Problems With Your Ticker: Heart Disease and Stroke

Heart disease and stroke are the leading cause of death and disability for people in the U.S. Overweight people are twice as likely as normal weight people to have:

  • high blood pressure
  • abnormally high levels of blood fats, and LDL ("bad") cholesterol

These are both all major risk factors for heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

Being overweight also contributes to:

  • angina (chest pain caused by decreased oxygen to the heart)
  • sudden death from heart disease or stroke without any signs or symptoms.

If you are overweight or obese it’s likely you are physically inactive. Physically inactive people are twice as likely to develop coronary heart disease compared with regularly active people.

Related Info: Your Guide on How to Lower Cholesterol

The Big C

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. It is responsible for about 22% of deaths.

Being overweight or obese raises your risk for:

About one third of cancer deaths are linked to excess body weight, poor nutrition and a lack of physical activity.

A study published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report found obesity was linked to 13 different kinds of cancers.

By 2030, it is estimated nearly a half million Americans will be diagnosed with obesity-related cancers each year.

Obesity Contributes to Dementia and Mental Health Issues

Obese adults are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and other mental health conditions than normal weight adults. Obesity also increases the risk of experiencing a mood disorder.

New research suggests that obesity during midlife may increase the risk for later-life dementia.

  • Research published in the Alzheimer's & Dementia journal suggests people who have a high body mass index (BMI) are more likely to develop dementia than those with a normal weight.
  • However, as dementia develops in later years, body weight reduces, often below the body weight for those who remain healthy.
  • Weight loss with dementia is caused by metabolic changes during the pre-dementia stage.

Maintaining a healthy weight might prevent or delay the onset of dementia.

Osteoarthritis is Linked With Obesity

Statistics show that obese adults are up to 4 times more likely to develop osteoarthritis of the knee than healthy-weight adults.

Osteoarthritis is a common joint problem -- often due to "wear-and-tear" of the knees, hips, and lower back.

The condition occurs if the tissue that protects the joints wears away. Extra weight can put more pressure and wear on joints, especially knees, causing pain.

This is further complicated by the fact that adults with osteoarthritis are significantly less likely to participate in physical activity compared to those without arthritis.

Sleep Apnea and Obesity

Those who are obese have greater risk of suffering from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a serious condition.

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. It may be because obese patients have more fat stored around their neck making it harder to breathe. These breaks in breathing may last between 10 and 30 seconds, and in severe cases can happen hundreds of times per night.

Sleep apnea can lead to serious, and often dangerous, daytime drowsiness. The risk for automobile accidents can skyrocket. If you think you suffer from sleep apnea, see your doctor. There are treatment options for this breathing disorder, including the CPAP breathing machine used during sleep.

There are two types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea: when the nose or throat airways become blocked. partially or completely blocked. Excess tissue in the airway is more common in those who are overweight, and may lead to airway blockage during sleep when muscles relax.
  • Central sleep apnea occurs due to damage of the brain stem, possibly by infection or stroke. The brain stem helps to controls breathing.

In March 2019, Sunosi (solriamfetol) from Jazz Pharmaceuticals was approved for the treatment of excessive sleepiness in adult patients with narcolepsy or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Sunosi is classified as a selective dopamine and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (DNRI).

Related: Sunosi FDA Approval History

Kidney, Liver and Gallbladder Problems

Obese individuals are far more likely to develop kidney disease than normal-weight individuals. They are also at greater risk of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a liver disease which can lead to cirrhosis, in which the liver is permanently damaged and no longer able to work properly.

NASH is one of the major causes of cirrhosis in the U.S., only behind hepatitis C and alcoholic liver disease.

People who are overweight or obese are also at increased risk of having gallstones. Gallstones are hard pieces of stone-like material that form in the gallbladder. They're mostly made of cholesterol. Gallstones can cause stomach or back pain. Being overweight may result in an enlarged gallbladder that doesn't work well.

Obesity in U.S. Kids and Teens

According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, data show that the U.S. childhood obesity rate (ages 2 to 19 years) stands at 18.5%. More than 200,000 youth under 20 years of age have type 2 diabetes, and the number at risk is even greater.

Obesity has an immediate and long-term effect on the health of children.

  • Childhood obesity can be linked with increased risk of emotional problems and lower self-esteem.
  • Depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder can also set in.
  • Bullying can be more common towards overweight children.
  • Rates of cancer in young adults appear to be associated with obesity from childhood.
  • Children who are obese have a greater chance of maintaining obesity in adulthood, and the associated health hazards that come along with obesity.

But the news is not all bad. Research shows that childhood obesity rates are starting to decline. Signs of progress are being seen where strategies have been put in place to make healthy eating choices available and boost physical activity.

Learn More: U.S. Childhood Obesity Epidemic: Treatment and Prevention

Fight the Battle of the Bulge

Obesity is usually caused by taking in more calories than you burn because the body stores unused calories as fat.

Following a healthy lifestyle can help you prevent being overweight or obese. Get medical if you can.

  • Meet with your doctor. Consult with a dietician.
  • Follow a prescribed healthy eating plan and think about calories and portion size.
  • Boost your exercise on a daily basis.
  • Stay hydrated; water can help you feel more full and it's great for your health.
  • Avoid sugar-ladened beverages like sodas and fruit juices.
  • Think about fresh vegetables, fruit, fiber, water and lean cuts of meat; keep the ice cream cone as a very occasional reward for your healthy eating habits.

Learn More: Surgery for Weight Loss: What Are the Options?

Top Tips For a Healthy Lifestyle

  • Focus on portion size. Read this article to learn more about the "Nutrition Facts" labels, portion sizes and content of packaged foods. Watch the portion sizes in restaurants, too, and avoid all fast food. The portions served often are enough for two or three people, and the salt levels are enormous. Children's portion sizes should be smaller than those for adults.
  • Be active, stay active. Make personal and family time active. Find activities that everyone will enjoy. For example, go for a brisk walk, bike or rollerblade, or train together for a walk or run. Get at least 30 minutes of brisk activity at least 6 days per week.
  • Reduce screen time. Limit the use of TVs, computers, smart phones and tablets because they limit time for physical activity. Health experts recommend 2 hours or less a day of screen time that's not work or homework related. Young kids need even less, or none.
  • Keep track of your weight, body mass index and waist circumference . Also, keep track of your children's growth and weight. Make your healthy routines become part of your family's everyday routines.
  • Check with your doctor before you begin any diet or exercise routine for advice and a stamp of approval.

Finished: 8 Reasons Why Obesity Needs To Be Tackled Now

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Sources

  • Kompaniyets L, et al. Body Mass Index and Risk for COVID-19–Related Hospitalization, Intensive Care Unit Admission, Invasive Mechanical Ventilation, and Death — United States, March–December 2020. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). March 12, 2021. Accessed March 29, 2021 at https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7010e4.htm
  • Be Sure to Read Labels for Portion, Calorie Control. Drugs.com. Accessed March 24, 2020.
  • Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The State of Childhood Obesity. Accessed March 24, 2020.
  • Obesity increases dementia risk. Science Daily. University College London. November 30, 2017. Accessed March 29, 2021 at https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/11/171130133812.htm
  • Obesity Linked to 13 Types of Cancer. Drugs.com. Oct. 3, 2017. Accessed March 24, 2020.
  • Obesity Rates Keep Rising for U.S. Adults. Drugs.com. March 23, 2018. Accessed March 24, 2020.
  • Finkelstein EA, Khavjou OA, Thompson H, et al. Obesity and severe obesity forecasts through 2030. Am J Prev Med. 2012 Jun;42(6):563-70. Accessed March 29, 2021 at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22608371/
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Defining Adult Overweight and Obesity. March 3, 2021. Accessed March 29, 2021 at https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/defining.html

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.