Fifteen Ways Obesity Hurts Your Health, but You Ignore It

Jan 7 2013 - 12:04pm
obesity, overweight, weight loss benefits

Most Americans know that their excess weight is harming their health, but a new survey indicates that many are not aware of just how many ways obesity is detrimental to the body. Being overweight not only contributes to heart disease and diabetes (admittedly, two of the biggest problems due to extra poundage), but can cause a whole host of other conditions that are purely preventable.

By now, you have heard that the majority of US citizens are now considered overweight or obese. Two-thirds of adults and nearly one-third of all children and teens carry too much weight to be considered ideal for optimal health. "Obesity is one of the most challenging health crises this country has ever faced," says Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health. "Twenty years ago, no state had an obesity rate higher than 15 percent. Now, only Colorado is below 20 percent."

However, when asked to list the consequences of overweight and obesity, 7 in 10 Americans surveyed through The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research cannot list more than the big two – cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. Only about 52% of those surveyed have had a discussion with their doctor about their weight status and the risks involved with not taking action to lose weight. Only 12% of parents have that same discussion with a pediatrician regarding their overweight children.

"People are often shocked to hear how far-reaching the effects of obesity are," said Jennifer Dimitriou, a bariatric dietitian at New York's Montefiore Medical Center.

Head to Toe – Here is What Obesity Can Do to Your Health

Dementia – Obesity can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by as much as 80% according to a 2008 study found in the May issue of Obesity Reviews. In this study, US researchers evaluated the results of 10 international studies covering just over 37,000 people in five countries and found that being overweight increased the risk of dementia substantially because of decreased blood supply to the brain. Thankfully, starting now to eat right and exercise can reduce this risk.

Depression – People who are obese are more likely to be diagnosed with depression. It’s hard to determine whether depression causes someone to overeat or if obesity leads to clinical depression, but one research team found that it can be a two-way street where each condition influences the other. Biologically, both obesity and depression are associated with an inflammatory state. Depression can also affect weight by interfering with the endocrine system.

Eye Health – Obesity is linked to age-related cataract, glaucoma, age-related maculopathy and diabetic retinopathy. For example, data from the Nurses’ Health Study found that women with a BMI of 23 or greater had a higher rate of cataract surgery than compared to women with lower levels, even after adjusting for other factors such as age. Cortical (the most common form of senile cataract) and PSC (posterior subscapsular) cataracts are the types most consistently associated with obesity.

Oral Health – Various studies have shown that obese individuals suffer more oral health problems that normal weight people. Obese patients tend to have higher levels of tooth decay and periodontal disease. Regrettably, being obese keeps some people from the dentist because of ergonomic issues in the treatment area (ie: chairs too small). Poor diet (sweet snacks and soft drinks), uncontrolled heartburn, and poor oral hygiene contribute to the problem.

Chronic Ear Infections – In children, obesity may be linked to an increased risk of otitis media, better known as middle ear infection.

Sleep Apnea – Those who are obese are at greater risk for sleep apnea, a disorder characterized by an interruption in breathing during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type, caused by a blockage of the airway, usually by the soft tissue in the back of the throat which collapses during sleep. Have a neck size of 17 inches or more in men and 16 inches or more in women increases the risk of developing sleep apnea.


Asthma – Only about 5% of Americans are aware that the risk of respiratory problems, such as asthma, is increased by obesity and that excess weight could cause more severe symptoms. The treatment of asthma may also be affected, as one study found that obese patients may not respond as well to medications. In addition, when it comes to respiratory illness such as the flu, obesity can reduce the effectiveness of treatment.


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