How does being overweight or obese affect my health?

As weight increases, so do health risks. Excess weight strains the entire body, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, joints and muscles. Heart disease risks increase due to high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Obese and overweight people are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes, which is becoming epidemic in the United States among adults and children. Diabetes can lead to other complications, such as blindness, impaired circulation to the legs and feet, kidney problems, skin infection and nerve damage.

Excess weight also has been found to increase the risk of certain cancers, including colon, breast, ovarian and prostate cancer. Too much fat stored in the liver can become toxic and lead to liver failure or cirrhosis. As weight goes up, so can problems with sleep apnea, because the lungs are forced to breathe against a larger chest area. In women, excess weight may contribute to menstrual abnormalities, infertility and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal imbalance that makes conception difficult and boosts the risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Obesity and overweight adversely impact health, quality of life, and life expectancy. The most commonly used measure of whether someone has increased health risks due to weight is body mass index, or BMI. Adults with BMI between 25 and 29.9 are considered overweight. Adults with BMI of 30 or greater are considered obese.

Overweight and obesity raise the risk for more than 20 chronic diseases and conditions:
  • type 2 diabetes
  • coronary heart disease
  • congestive heart failure
  • angina pectoris
  • stroke
  • high blood cholesterol
  • hypertension
  • cancers (uterine, breast, colorectal, kidney, and gallbladder)
  • osteoarthritis
  • depression
  • Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
  • pregnancy complications
  • fertility (based on ovulation and menstrual irregularities)
  • liver and gallbladder disease
  • sleep apnea
If you weigh too much:
  • You risk serious health problems. People who are overweight are more likely than others to have high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even some types of cancer. The more overweight you are, the higher your risk.
  • You may tire quickly and lack energy. Extra weight is hard on your body. You might not be able to do all the things you want to do in a day.
  • You may find exercise more difficult. Extra weight is hard on your joints. You may get out of breath easily.
  • You may have poor self-esteem, or feel sad and down. Studies show that overweight and depression often go together.

Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of:

Heart disease Stroke Type 2 diabetes High blood pressure Breathing problems Arthritis Gallbladder disease Some kinds of cancer

But excess body weight isn't the only health risk. The places where you store your body fat also affect your health. Women with a "pear" shape tend to store fat in their hips and buttocks. Women with an "apple" shape store fat around their waists. If your waist is more than 35 inches, you may have a higher risk of weight-related health problems.

This answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center

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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.