Health this week
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Obesity carries potential heavy cost on our health and wellbeing. Outlined below are related medical conditions that can come as cost of being over-weight. Being overweight is to have a weight more than expected for height – it is quantified in BMI (Basal Metabolic Index) measured as weight in kilogram divided by the person’s height (in meters) twice. Individuals with BMI 25 and above are considered to be overweight and are at higher risk for the following conditions.
Cardiovascular disease and diabetes
Obesity is a risk factor for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. People who are obese have almost three times the risk for heart disease as people with normal weights. Studies continue to report that obesity in childhood is a strong predictor of heart disease, so it is important to watch how we fattened up our kids.
Particularly noteworthy is the fact that weight concentrated around the abdomen and in the upper part of the body poses a higher health risk than fat that settles in a pear-shape around the hips and flank. Fat cells in the upper part of the body appear to have different qualities from those found in the lower parts.
Risk for hypertension is the health problem most commonly associated with obesity and the greater the weight, the greater the risk. While hypertension carries its own serious risks for stroke and heart attack, overweight people with high blood pressure are also at increased danger for enlargement of the left heart chamber, a major risk factor for heart failure. Even modest weight loss is beneficial for reducing blood pressure and the risk for heart failure.
Cholesterol The effect of obesity on cholesterol levels is complex. Although obesity does not appear to be strongly associated with cholesterol levels, among obese individual’s triglyceride levels are usually high while HDL (the so-called “good” cholesterol) levels tend to be low—both of these are strong risk factors for heart disease.
Obesity is strongly associated with type 2 diabetes (previously called non-insulin dependent or adult-onset diabetes). Almost 90% of type 2 diabetics are obese. Although only a minority of obese people is diabetic, obesity and sedentary living is mainly blamed for the dramatic increase in type 2 diabetes over the past period.
Type 2 diabetics generally have normal or high levels of insulin, a critical hormone in the regulation of blood sugar. However, they are unable to use the insulin, a condition called insulin resistance, which is believed to be caused by increased body fat.
Excess weight is a strong risk factor for cancer of the oesophagus (the food pipe that carries food to the stomach) in certain people. The increased risk may be due to a higher incidence of gastroesophageal reflux disorder (heartburn disease) in people who are overweight.
Similarly, women who are obese appear to have two to three times the risk for uterine cancer as thinner women. Obese women are also at higher risk for gallbladder cancer, and obese men are at higher risk for colon and prostate cancers.
Muscles and Bones
Obesity places stress on bones and muscles, and overweight people are at higher risk for hernias, low back pain, and aggravation of arthritic conditions. Likewise, the incidence of osteoarthritis is known to be significantly increased in people who are overweight. In the same vein, obese workers were over three times more likely than slender people to develop carpal tunnel syndrome, manifesting as a swollen and painful condition of the wrist and hand, and other problems involving nerves in their wrists and hands.
The incidence of gallstones is significantly higher in obese women and men. The risk for stone formation is, however, also high if a person loses weight too quickly.
Effects on the Lungs
Obesity is proving to be a strong risk factor for adult-onset asthma. Obesity puts people at risk for hypoxia, in which oxygen is insufficient to meet the body’s needs. Obese people need to work harder to breathe and tend to have inefficient respiratory muscles and diminished lung capacity.
Sleep Apnea and Sleep Disorders
People who are obese and nap tend to fall asleep faster and sleep longer during the day; at night, however, it takes them longer to fall asleep and they sleep less than people with normal weights. In an apparent vicious circle, studies have suggested that not only can obesity interfere with sleep, but that sleep problems may actually contribute to obesity.
Obesity is particularly associated with sleep apnea, which occurs when the upper throat relaxes and collapses at intervals during sleep, thereby temporarily blocking the passage of air. Sleep apnea may actually contribute to weight gain by depriving people of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This is the dreaming phase of sleep, necessary for long-term emotional wellbeing; REM deprivation has been linked to overeating.
Women who gain weight after age 18 are at higher risk for developing uterine fibroids. Abnormal amounts of body fat, either 10% to 15% too high or too low, can contribute to infertility in women. Similarly, in men, obesity can contribute to reduced testosterone levels.