Americans’ waistlines are expanding and more people carry extra weight than ever before. Nearly 70% of adults over the age of 20 are overweight, and about 36% are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Obesity is calculated by measuring body mass index (BMI), a number that compares your weight and height. The National Institutes of Health offers a BMI calculator.

Obesity plays a role in an array of health issues, ranging from the difficult to deal with to potentially fatal. Health problems can result not only from the extra weight, but also from the sedentary lifestyle and poor nutritional habits that contribute to obesity.

1. Heart disease

Being overweight or obese increases your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, which is the top killer for men and women. Overweight people by definition have more fat tissue in their bodies, which requires additional oxygen. The need for more oxygen pushes your heart to work harder and circulate more blood. The additional blood increases pressure in the arteries, resulting in high blood pressure. The vicious cycle taxes your body and can lead to fatal consequences.

2. Chronic pain

Obesity and pain have an intricate relationship. Carrying extra weight can lead to the development of pain, but it can also exacerbate existing pain. Extra weight taxes your bones and joints, commonly leading to lower back pain. Meanwhile, exercise helps to reduce pain, but people who are overweight typically lead sedentary lives.

Obesity also increases the risk for fibromyalgia, a disorder characterized by widespread pain. Research published in Arthritis Care and Research found that the more a patient weighs, the more fibromyalgia symptoms intensify and quality of life decreases.

3. Diabetes

Diabetes is a disorder involving the body’s inability to process blood sugar. The disease stems from disturbances with insulin, an important hormone produced by the pancreas that regulates blood sugar. Insulin takes blood sugar and uses it to feed the body’s cells. When insulin isn’t properly functioning, as in diabetes, excessive levels of blood sugar build. High blood sugar impairs blood circulation, which can lead to kidney problems, nerve damage, heart attacks, and strokes.

4. Cancer

Extra weight has been linked to cancers ranging from breast and colon to prostate and gallbladder. The reasons for the heightened risk vary. One factor is that fat cells produce estrogen, a hormone involved in many breast cancers, as well as several other types of the disease. Other hormones secreted by fat cells include adipokines that may encourage cell growth.

What are your thoughts about the link between obesity and health conditions? 

Image by Sam Howzit via Flickr


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