Published on 17 Jun 2020
People living with obesity have higher chances of developing a range of serious medical issues. These health problems affect nearly every part of the body, including the brain, blood vessels, heart, liver, gallbladder, bones, and joints.
Being overweight or having obesity greatly increases the risk of stroke, where blood stops flowing to your brain. Obesity can also have a profound effect on your mental health. This includes a higher risk of depression, poor self-esteem, and issues with body image.
Fat stored around the neck can make the airway too small, which can make breathing difficult at night. This is called sleep apnea. Breathing may actually stop for short periods of time in people with sleep apnea.
Obesity has been associated with a higher risk of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD occurs when stomach acid leaks into the esophagus.
In addition, obesity increases the risk of developing gallstones. This is when bile builds up and hardens in the gallbladder. This may require surgery.
Fat can also build up around the liver and lead to liver damage, scar tissues, and even liver failure.
Cardiovascular and endocrine system
In people with obesity, the heart needs to work harder to pump blood around the body. This leads to high blood pressure, or hypertension. High blood pressure is the leading cause of stroke.
Obesity can also make the body’s cells resistant to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that carries sugar from your blood to your cells, where it’s used for energy. If you’re resistant to insulin, the sugar can’t be taken up by the cells, resulting in high blood sugar.
This increases a person’s risk of having type 2 diabetes, a condition where your blood sugar is too high. Type 2 diabetes is linked to a range of other health issues, including heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, amputation, and blindness.
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high blood sugar on top of excess body fat can make the blood vessels that carry blood to the heart become hard and narrow. Hardened arteries, also called atherosclerosis, can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Diabetes and high blood pressure are also common causes of chronic kidney disease.
Obesity can make it more difficult for a woman to get pregnant. It can also increase a woman’s risk of having serious complications during pregnancy.
Skeletal and muscular systems
Obesity can cause deteriorating bone density and muscle mass. This is referred to as osteosarcopenic obesity. Osteosarcopenic obesity can lead to a higher risk of fractures, physical disability, insulin resistance, and poorer overall health outcomes.
Extra weight can also put too much pressure on the joints, leading to pain and stiffness.
Integumentary (skin) system
Rashes can occur where the skin of body fat folds. A condition known as acanthosis nigricans can also occur. Acanthosis nigricans is characterized by discoloration and thickening of the skin in the folds and creases of your body.
Other effects on the body
Obesity has been linked with an increased risk of many different types of cancers, including endometrial, liver, kidney, cervical, colon, esophageal, and pancreatic cancer, among others.
As your body mass index (BMI) increases, so does your risk of developing cancer.
Obesity affects nearly every part of the body. If you’re living with obesity, you can treat or manage many of these risk factors with a combination of diet, exercise, and lifestyle changes.
Losing just 5 to 10 percent of your current weight can reduce your risk of developing these health issues. Talk to your doctor about losing weight and maintaining a healthy lifestyle