The 20 Medical Complications of Obesity


Weighty people are often perceived as healthy in some part of the world like India and this ignorance among the masses further worsens the problem of being obese. Obesity is related to diseases like diabetes, heart diseases, kidney problems, lung diseases, sleep apnea and others. According to Dr Ashish Krishna, MBBS, MS, Minimally Invasive & Obesity Surgeon, Sunrise Hospital, New Delhi talks about the adverse effects of obesity and how they are interlinked.

WHO’s world health statistics in 2012 report have it that,  one in six adults is obese, one in 10 diabetics and one in three has high blood pressure.

The changing lifestyle and instant noodle culture contribute a lot to the increase of this disease, where junk food has replaced homemade food and the outcome is evident – in the unwanted bulges and fat deposition. Indians are genetically susceptible to weight accumulation especially around the waist leading to central obesity.

In Nigeria, the prevalence of overweight individuals ranged from 20.3%–35.1%, while the prevalence of obesity ranged from 8.1%–22.2%. Conclusion: The prevalence of overweight and obese individuals in Nigeria is of epidemic proportions. There is a need to pay closer attention to combating these health disorders.(

As per the guidelines of the WHO, a person with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more is generally considered obese. A person with a BMI equal to or more than 25 is considered overweight.

Obesity is a multifactorial disease. The causes for obesity can be genetic, metabolic, behavioural and environmental. The severity of obesity is not restricted to increase in weight only, if not taken seriously this extra fat can lead to many chronic diseases, which can be lethal.

Negative Effects of Obesity

Type 2 Diabetes: Type 2 diabetes and obesity are closely linked. If you are obese, the possibility of developing type 2 diabetes abounds.

obesity in NigeriaIn fact, over a long period of time, high blood sugar levels and diabetes can increase the chances of heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, leg and foot amputations, and pregnancy complications.

Gynaecological and obstetrics complications: Females who are obese face problems, including gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and delivery complications such as macrosomia, shoulder dystocia and higher rates of caesarean sections and infections.

Heart Diseases: Putting on weight dramatically increase the chance of having a heart attack. When people eat too many calories, or too many saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, their blood cholesterol levels often rise. That raises their risk of heart diseases.

High Blood Pressure: Being overweight, can affect blood pressure in a bad way. Since extra weight can raise the heart rate and puts more pressure on blood vessels.

Dyslipidemia/ High Cholesterol: People who are overweight or obese are more likely to have high cholesterol. High cholesterol is a risk factor for stroke, heart disease, as well as diabetes.

Osteoarthritis & Joint Problems: Osteoarthritis is a common joint condition that most often affects the knee, hip, and back. Obesity also increases the risk of arthritis in obese people. The extra weight can cause more stress on the joints and hips, which results in arthritis at a later stage.

Cancer: The WHO International Agency for Research on Cancer has estimated that “overweight and inactivity account for a quarter to third of all cancers such as breast, colon, endometrium, kidney and oesophagus.”

Gastrointestinal disease: People who are obese, especially women, have increased risk of developing gallstones. Obesity increases the amount of cholesterol in bile, which can lead to stone formation.

Sleep apnea: If an obese person wakes up feeling out of breath, suffers from a sore throat, dry mouth or loud and chronic snoring, then he/she is surely suffering from sleep apnea. It also increases the chances of fatal heart attacks.

Stroke: Stroke is a deadly disease, which results due to deficiency of blood supply to the brain. Obesity and excessive weight put a strain on the entire circulatory system and increases the person’s risk for stroke.

Urinary Stress incontinence: Stress incontinence means you leak urine while coughing, sneezing or during an exercise session. It happens when the pelvic floor muscles that support the bladder are weakened. Obese people are at a much higher risk of stress incontinence. Excess weight increases pressure on the abdominal organs. Consequently, the pressure on the bladder may be increased even without the additional pressure from a cough or other force.

Surgical Complications: Obese people have a much higher risk of complications following surgery. Patients who carry a lot of extra weight can expect longer surgery times, longer recoveries and more complications.

Infertility & miscarriages: Obesity significantly affects a woman’s capacity to carry on a term pregnancy. Excess weight affects a woman’s ovulation, thus increasing fertility problems. It also decreases the rates of successful pregnancy in natural conception cycles.

In fact, men who are overweight or obese are also at a greater risk for infertility,

Liver disease (Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease): Extra weight can cause fatty liver, which in turn promotes liver disease in obese people. This is one of the most common causes of cryptogenic cirrhosis.

Kidney disease: Obesity contributes to Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, which increases the risk of kidney disease. Secondly,  the kidneys have to work harder, filtering above the normal level, called hyperfiltration, to meet the metabolic demands of the increased body mass index (BMI) in individuals which later on can lead to kidney disease.

Psychological Effects: Obese people are the victims of physical bias, discrimination, mocking and humour. In addition, repeated failure of diet and exercise increase the feeling of despair and depression.

Respiratory Problems: Due to increased weight and BMI, the lung volumes reduces. This leads to more restricted air entry. So, the extra fat can cause breathing problems, which are associated with high blood pressure.

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