You may be carrying around a few extra pounds or a lot of extra pounds or know a loved one who is. Maybe you find yourself physically exhausted or uncomfortable or embarrassed about your weight. But if you’re overweight, how big a problem is it really? What are the short-term and long-term effects? How unhealthy are those extra pounds after all?
In some cases, being slightly overweight is not an issue as it may actually increase your life span. However, being overweight and more so obese can put you at an increased risk for up to thirty medical conditions, some deadly. So don’t you think you should know what the future might hold for you if you continue to pack on those pounds? And also, what do those extra pounds mean for you today?
The International Journal of Obesity, the American Obesity Association, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all agree: being overweight has its consequences, and obesity in particular is very dangerous.
Being overweight or obese puts an individual at an increased risk of developing many health conditions. They include gallbladder disease, heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), dyslipidemia (high cholesterol), osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea, and even cancer.
Arthritis, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, is especially common among the overweight and obese. But cardiovascular disease is even more commonly caused by overweight and obesity. The American Heart Association recently dubbed obesity as a leading cause of heart attacks.
There are more surprising effects of being overweight, too; some are more minor than others. For instance, did you know that you are more likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome if you have a severe weight problem? In fact, AOA (American Obesity Association) found that 70% of carpal tunnel syndrome sufferers were overweight! Daytime sleepiness is also something that those who are overweight tend to endure which can put many lives at risk when they drive.
Other effects on health include gout, an impaired immune system, respiratory problems, difficulty healing from wounds, reproductive disorders that cause infertility, liver disease, back pain, gynecological complications, pancreatitis, and incontinence. Studies have even found that an obese mother is at an increased risk of her newborn having birth defects like NTD (neural tube defects). Research here is undeveloped however.
Perhaps the most alarming health effect is cancer. Obese and even overweight persons are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer of the breast, esophagus, colon, uterus, and kidney.
And what’s most frustrating about all of this is it doesn’t even encompass all the risks of being overweight or obese! There are many other medical conditions that can result from carrying around one too many pounds and not to mention, there is a social stigma about the overweight and obese population. In the Stone Age and even as late as the 1600’s, heavy women were idealized as their weight resembled fertility and good health. But heavy women are not considered beautiful in today’s society – in fact, most models that grace the magazine pages are actually underweight and/or airbrushed to be unrealistically thin. Thus, overweight individuals must battle an unfair, negative self-image and often fall victim to self-hatred and depression.
But there’s good news. While genetic factors predispose one to obesity and the like, they don’t mean much if a person consumes fewer calories than they burn off. That means that even if you have a naturally slow or even dysfunctional metabolism, etc, you can still take control over your weight. Just by eating less and being physically active more, you can shed those pounds and not find these statistics so fearful.
In fact, as little as a 10% decrease in body fat can completely remove a good chunk of these health risks from your radar!
Research into obesity is currently trying to catch up with the new, wide prevalence of it in the United States. As those in the scientific and medical community begin to take the problem more seriously, prevention and treatment options well become all the more clear and the public will gradually become more informed and thus more equipped to battle weight problems effectively. However, research may also bring to light even more health risks associated with overweight and obesity.
Fortunately, obesity is entirely treatable. Some individuals may benefit from medications and surgeries while others may just need to make a few small lifestyle changes to enjoy a healthier weight.
Dr. Michael Smith, in a 2005 WebMD article, discussed the obesity epidemic as startling and one that implies a slew of dangerous health problems for American citizens – not to mention, economic consequences for both individuals and the national economy. As well, almost half of U.S. states have been found guilty of not confronting the problem of overweight and obesity rates among their populations.
But while the obesity epidemic is expected to rise, information is becoming more accessible to the public and more and more attention is being given to the issue as it threatens the quality and longevity of more and more lives.
The plain truth is that overweight and obesity health issues are relatively new to the United States. In the 1980’s, it was hardly a topic of discussion. So medical research and treatment are just a few steps behind, as overweight and obesity rates have doubled in just the past 20 years – it’s thrown the government off guard.
But as these health risks have increased over just two decades, they certainly can be managed in the same amount of time! It’s simply a matter of government and individual responsibility, which can be promoted through public policy and educational programs. And as the word gets out about the direct and indirect health consequences from being obese, people will certainly start to take action.
If you know how your body is affected by your food intake, it is a lot easier to take control over your diet and lose weight as a result. Maybe that extra slice of cake is tempting today, but if you are aware that drinking a glass of water instead means that you will be at a lower risk of cancer and heart disease and a bunch of other serious medical conditions, then you will likely be a lot more motivated to change your eating habits!