How being overweight or obese can impact health
People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of developing chronic conditions like hypertension, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and more.
People who are obese or overweight have a higher risk for chronic health conditions like hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. About two in five people in the United States were obese in 2017 to 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
For people who are overweight or obese, even modest weight loss — like losing 5 to 10 percent of body weight — can help reduce the risk of obesity-related complications or chronic disease.
Different factors, from genetics to lifestyle factors, can cause people to be overweight. Genetics may determine how the body stores fat or how quickly calories are burned. Lifestyle factors like having a high-calorie diet or a lack of exercise can also contribute to obesity.
In some cases, diseases or certain medications can lead to obesity.
What is considered overweight or obese?
Body mass index (BMI) is the measure that health professionals use to determine if someone is considered overweight or obese.
A BMI of 25 or higher is considered overweight while a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. Doctors may also measure waist circumference to estimate fat distribution, which is how fatty tissue is spread out in different parts of your body.
BMI and waist circumference together can help a doctor diagnose overweight or obesity.
What are the health complications of being obese?
According to the CDC, people who are overweight may have a higher risk for the following conditions.
Type 2 Diabetes
This type of diabetes is caused by insulin resistance, which occurs when your body does not respond well to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels.
Insulin resistance results in high blood sugar levels, which leads to complications in other parts of the body, such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.
Being overweight means that the heart works harder to pump blood throughout the body, which increases the pressure on artery walls, leading to high blood pressure or hypertension.
Consuming foods with lots of sodium is also related to high blood pressure, as the body may retain more water, thus increasing the amount of blood flowing in arteries, and increasing the pressure placed on these arteries. Eating less sodium can lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease.
High blood cholesterol
Cholesterol is useful as our bodies use it to help build our cells, make hormones like estrogen, and to help digest fatty foods. However, there is “good” and “bad” cholesterol. Low-density lipoproteins or LDL cholesterol is the “bad” kind, as it takes cholesterol to the arteries where it can form plaque.
When cholesterol and other fatty substances line artery walls, a condition known as atherosclerosis, the arteries become narrower and less flexible, making it harder for blood to flow to the heart, brain, muscles and other organs in your body. This increases the risk of heart disease.
Obesity-related conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol can have a negative impact on the arteries. Over time, arteries may become hardened and stiff, a condition known as arteriosclerosis.
This can happen if they are clogged with fatty substances. As a result, circulation becomes more difficult as it’s harder for blood to travel through inflexible arteries. Poor circulation can result in a heart attack or a stroke.
Being overweight may make it hard for the lungs to fully expand and can affect the airways, making it harder to breathe in enough air. This can make asthma worse or lead to sleep apnea, a sleep disorder in which breathing gets interrupted during sleep.
This is a condition characterized by joint pain and stiffness. Increased body fat can increase inflammation, which impacts the joints and cartilage surrounding bones. This can occur in weight-bearing joints, like the knees.
Weight gain can increase the likelihood of getting certain cancers, like breast, colorectal, endometrial, kidney, prostate, or colon cancer, among others.
In addition to the above conditions, obesity and overweight may increase the risk for urinary incontinence, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, gallstones or gallbladder disease, or kidney disease. People who are obese or overweight may also have a higher risk of complications during pregnancy.
How to lose weight and maintain a healthy body weight
For people who are overweight, studies show that losing even 5 percent of body weight improves risk factors like blood pressure and blood sugar levels. More weight loss was associated with even greater benefits and a reduction in the risk for cardiovascular disease.
Weight loss treatment for obesity or being overweight looks different for each person.
One way to lose weight or maintain a healthy body weight is through lifestyle changes, such as eating a balanced and healthy diet and getting enough physical activity. Balancing the number of calories burned with the number of calories consumed is an important part of maintaining a healthy weight.
The number of calories needed daily varies by person. The MyPlate.gov online tool estimates how many calories you need to maintain your current weight based on your height, weight, and level of physical activity.
You can also work with a dietitian to determine calorie needs and create an eating plan to balance your calorie consumption with the number of calories you burn.
If you’re considering starting a diet or exercise program, chat with your doctor.
In some cases, a doctor might recommend a weight loss program, medication, or surgery.
Remember that weight loss is a journey. It will take time to develop new, healthy habits so don’t forget to be kind to yourself and celebrate the small wins along the way.
Alpha provides diet and nutrition counseling and treatment online. Once you complete an online consultation, one of our registered dietitians will help you come up with a nutrition plan that suits your needs or a provider can help prescribe medication.
To learn more about the conditions we treat or get started with your online consultation, check out our website and sign up today!