What major health problems might develop because of obesity?
What major health problems might develop because of obesity?

Obesity causes major illnesses and diseases in adults and children.

One major disease that affects many obese adults and an increasing number of obese children is Diabetes. This type of diabetes develops when either the body does not produce enough insulin or the body’s cells do not use the insulin produced. Insulin is a hormone that controls blood sugar. Obesity lessens insulin’s ability to control sugar in the blood. The body begins to make too much insulin trying to regulate blood sugar levels. This promotes the development of diabetes.

Overweight and obese people also have an increased chance of developing Heart Disease. Obesity often causes high or unbalanced cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in blood that can build up on the walls of blood vessels. Obesity increases low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol, and decreases high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or good cholesterol. This can lead to health problems such as congestive heart failure and heart attacks.

Obesity can also cause hypertension or High Blood Pressure. As your weight increases, your blood pressure rises. Hypertension greatly raises the risk of a heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure.

Obesity also increases the chance of getting Metabolic Syndrome. This is a cluster of health problems that includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol. These can lead to serious diseases such as diabetes, heart disease or a stroke.

Obesity can also cause sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a common disorder. During sleep a person has one or more pauses in breathing or takes very shallow breaths. They often make periodic gasping or “snorting” noises and their sleep is momentarily interrupted. If untreated, sleep apnea can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and diabetes.

Other obesity-related diseases and health problems include:

  • Reproduction/Sexuality—In men, obesity can cause reproductive hormonal abnormalities, sexual dysfunction and infertility. In women, it can cause hormonal difficulties, higher rates of miscarriage, and infertility.
  • Skin problems such as calluses, stretch marks, varicose veins and skin irritation.
  • Liver and gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis (a type of arthritis caused by cartilage breakdown)

To learn more:

Do you know the health risk of being overweight?
(Weight-control Information Network, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease)
Lists health problems caused by obesity and what you can do to lower your health risks.
What are the health risks of overweight and obesity?
(National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute)
Lists health problems associated with obesity. There is also a section on how obesity affects children and teens.
Weight Loss: Health risks associated with obesity
Lists health risks associated with obesity.

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Written by: Maya Hollinshead B.A.
Reviewed by: Jeffrey G. Schultze, M.D.
Last Modified: Monday May 11, 2015 10:32 AM