What are the health risks of being overweight?

Celeste Robb-Nicholson
Internal Medicine
Not only is obesity closely linked to high blood pressure, unfavorable cholesterol levels, lack of exercise, and diabetes, it also increases your risk for heart disease independent of these other conditions. All forms of obesity are bad for health, but excessive upper-body fat (the "apple shape") is more dangerous to the heart than lower-body obesity (the "pear shape").
Christopher Chiodo, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
Your weight plays a major role in your risk for many health problems: cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, several forms of cancer, arthritis, gallstones, adult-onset asthma, infertility, sleep apnea, and even snoring. Excess weight can also contribute to certain foot problems.
Katie Logan
Being overweight or obese isn't a cosmetic problem. It greatly raises the risk in adults for many diseases and conditions, including:
Heart Disease: This condition occurs when a fatty material called plaque builds up on the inside walls of the coronary arteries. Plaque narrows the coronary arteries, which reduces blood flow to your heart.
High Blood Pressure: Your chances for having high blood pressure are greater if you're overweight or obese.
Stroke: The risk of having a stroke rises as BMI increases.
Type 2 Diabetes: More than 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight.
Abnormal Blood Fats: If you're obese, you have a greater chance of having abnormal levels of blood fats. Abnormal levels of these blood fats are a risk for heart disease.
Metabolic Syndrome: Metabolic syndrome occurs when a person has at least three of these heart disease risk factors: A large waistline. Having extra fat in the waist area is a greater risk factor for heart disease than having extra fat in other parts of the body, such as on the hips Abnormal blood fat levels, including high triglycerides and low HDL cholesterol Higher than normal blood pressure Higher than normal fasting blood sugar levels
Cancer: Being obese raises the risk for colon, breast, endometrial, and gallbladder cancers.
Osteoarthritis: This is a common joint problem of the knees, hips, and lowers back. Extra weight can put more pressure and wear on joints, causing pain.
Sleep Apnea: This condition causes a person to stop breathing for short periods during sleep. A person with sleep apnea may have more fat stored around the neck. This can make the breathing airway smaller so that it's hard to breathe.
Reproductive Problems: Obesity can cause menstrual irregularity and infertility in women.
Gallstones: People who are overweight or obese have a greater chance of having gallstones. These are hard pieces of stone-like material that form in the gallbladder. They're mostly made of cholesterol and can cause abdominal or back pain.
This answer is based on source information from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
If you're overweight, your risk of having health problems -- such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke -- is increased. If you carry your extra weight around your waistline, your risk is higher still.
Edward Phillips
Physical Therapy
Excess weight plays a role in many serious illnesses, so overweight and obesity can trim years off your life. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine tracked over half a million people ages 50 to 71 for a decade. Mortality was 20% to 40% higher among those who had been overweight at midlife, and a full two to three times higher than usual among those who had been obese. In people 50 and older, overweight and obesity account for 14% of cancer deaths in men and 20% of cancer deaths in women. Just 22 excess pounds can boost blood pressure to a point where stroke risk rises by 24%, according to the American Heart Association. Type 2 diabetes is so closely linked to excess weight, experts coined the term "diabesity" to describe the phenomenon driving up record rates of this illness. Even simple daily challenges—rising from a chair, lifting 10 pounds, walking a quarter-mile—are harder for heavier people than those at a healthy weight. Losing unwanted weight tips the balance back in your favor, helping you live longer, look better, and feel better all around.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
People who are overweight have an increased risk for a long list of health problems. Even if you're just 10 or 20 pounds over your ideal weight (for a person of average height), you are more likely to develop these and other serious conditions:
  • arthritis
  • gallstones
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • liver disease
  • sleep apnea
  • type 2 diabetes
  • endometrial, breast, prostate and colorectal cancer
The good news is that losing weight, even a modest amount, can cut your risk for getting sick. If you need to shed pounds, talk to your doctor and consider taking part in a balanced weight-loss program such as Weight Watchers.

 Watch as Dr. Oz explains in this video​​​​ why being overweight can hurt your health in many ways
Being overweight raises your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. It can cause other problems, too, like high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol, and high blood glucose (sugar). Losing weight can help you prevent and manage these problems. And you don't have to lose a lot of weight. Even a loss of 10-15 pounds can make a big difference.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
The complications of being too heavy are diabetes, abnormal lipid levels, disordered sleep patterns, high blood pressure, arthritis, low back pain, and distorted self-body image. These complications can make your RealAge (physiologic age) radically older. Otherwise, a few extra pounds are not as great an ager as we once thought.
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Weighing as little as ten or fifteen pounds over your desired weight can exacerbate a heart condition, elevate blood pressure and cholesterol, and even increase your risk of certain cancers. In the midst of the pessimistic outlook for overweight individuals, there is some good news. While gaining weight can increase the chance of snoring, as well as serious illness, losing weight can reduce the risk.
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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.