Obesity and Health Risks

Now that the New Year is here, many people have made resolutions to lose that excess weight that was gained over the holidays or as an accumulation over the years.  When weight loss is necessary, this is a wonderful goal.  One key factor to understand, though, is that having healthy weight is more important than just your outward appearance.  Sure, you may want to look good and feel good in your own skin; but there are also MANY health problems that you can escape by losing weight and avoiding obesity.

The following list may seem long, but ALL of these are conditions that can result from obesity.

  • Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) – plaque builds up in the arteries which is why this condition is also referred to as blocked arteries; heart attack or heart failure can result from the condition
  • High Blood Pressure – damage can occur to the body in many ways when the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries increases as the heart pumps
  • Stroke – plaque built up in the arteries can cause a break off resulting in a clot; if the clot is close to the brain then it can block oxygen and result in a stroke
  • Type 2 Diabetes – an increase in intra-abdominal fat is correlated with a decrease in the effective use of insulin which is required to convert glucose (sugar) in the body to energy; obesity has also increased the risk of type 2 diabetes in children
  • Abnormal Blood Fats – obesity can result in high levels of triglycerides and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and low levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol which increases the risk of developing CAD
  • Metabolic Syndrome – this group of risk factors increases your chances of having heart disease, diabetes, or a stroke; risk factors include: a large waistline, higher than normal triglyceride level, lower than normal HDL level, higher than normal blood pressure, higher than normal fasting blood sugar level, or if you are on medications for any of these conditions
  • Cancer – obesity increases the risk for colon, breast, endometrial, and gallbladder cancers
  • Osteoarthritis – excess weight increases pressure through the joints, thus increasing the risk of developing arthritis especially in the knees, hips, and low back
  • Sleep Apnea – greater fat around the neck can narrow the airway and make pauses in breathing or shallow breathing while sleeping more likely
  • Reproductive problems – menstrual issues and infertility can occur with obesity
  • Gallstones – obesity can increase the risk of developing gallstones which are mostly made of cholesterol and can cause back pain; obesity can also increases the risk of an enlarged gallbladder which does not function

In order to know your risk for these conditions, it is improtant to know how to check if you are overweight or obese.  The best measures come from devices that can calculate body composition.  Certain devices can measure air or water displacement while in a testing apparatus in order to assess the amount of muscle versus fat in your body.  Due to the fact that these measurement devices are not always readily available to most people, measuring your waistline, the ratio of your waistline to your hips, and your body mass index (BMI) may be a quicker and more feasible option.  These measurements are not as accurate; however, they do have statistical correlations with health risks. 

To measure your waistline, find the smallest point around your abdomen and measure the circumference in centimeters.  Most women are at a higher risk for heart disease when their waistline is greater than 80-88 cm, whereas most men are at a higher risk when their waistline is greater than approximately 94-102 cm.  Asian men and women are at a higher risk with even smaller waistlines. 

To calculate your waist to hip ratio, measure the smallest point of your waistline and the widest point of your hips, then divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement.  Your hips should always be wider than your waistline.  Women with a ratio of 0.80 or below have a low health risk, those with a ratio of 0.81-0.85 have a moderate health risk, and those with a ratio greater than 0.85 are at a high health risk.  For men, the low range is 0.95 or below, medium is 0.96-1.0, and high is greater than 1.0. 

BMI is a measure of your weight compared to your height.  It is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in meters.  For a more information on BMI and an easier means of calculating this measure, check out our past blog BMI and Cholesterol.  A BMI of greater than 25 is considered overweight for most people and a BMI of 30 is considered obese.  Women are at a greater risk for heart problems when their BMI is over 21 and the risk for heart disease in both men and women is greatly increased once their BMI reaches 30 or above.

If, after testing yourself, you have discovered that you are overweight or obese; then refer to our past blogs Exercise for Health or Exercise for Weight Loss?, What Form of Exercise is Best for Your Goals?, and How to Lose Weight…Even Around the Holidays for good tips on healthy exercise and weight loss.  We hope this blog was informative.  If you have any questions on this topic or any others in which you are interested, feel free to leave any questions, comments, or suggestions. Thank you for reading and stay active.                                                                                                       








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