What Are the Health Risks of Obesity?

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The Health Risks of Obesity

Obesity has become a global epidemic, and while it may not get the kind of attention that cancer gets, it is a known catalyst for a variety of other serious health conditions.

What is Obesity?

Obesity is defined by the World Health Organization as an “excessive accumulation of fat that presents a risk to health.”

The individual determination of obesity is generally calculated by the Body Mass Index or BMI.

The BMI divides a person’s weight (in Kilograms) by their height, then categorizes the result into one of a variety of classes to determine under, over, or normal weight.

A result of 25 begins the overweight classes, and a result of 30 begins the first obesity class, while a result in the low twenties is considered normal.

The BMI does have some flaws, as it does not account for muscle content, and so mathematically generalizes what a healthy weight should be.

People can be healthy at different BMIs than what the system recognizes as normal. Regardless, the important thing is when excessive fat begins to pose a risk to your health.

Health Hazards of Obesity

Among the most serious health risks posed by obesity are diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, sleep apnea, arthritis, and problems during pregnancy.

Being obese does not mean that you will get these diseases, it merely increases your risk.


Diabetes, or more specifically, Type Two Diabetes, involves higher than normal blood sugar levels that can cause heart disease, strokes, and possible blindness.

There is a clear link between diabetes and obesity. The reason for this link isn’t quite clear but could involve cells morphing because of excess fat, and becoming insulin resistant.

High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure refers to how hard your blood hits the walls of your arteries when it is pumped throughout your body. High blood pressure can result in heart disease and strokes.

Having excess fat makes it more challenging for your heart to pump your blood to all your cells, which means it will have to pump harder; your blood would be hitting your arteries harder, and your blood pressure would increase dangerously.

Heart Disease

Heart disease usually refers to the hardening and shrinking of a blood vessel that leads to your heart. The result could be a heart attack, as your heart would not be able to function properly from a lack of blood.

Obesity can result in clogged arteries, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, all three of which increase your odds of heart disease.


Cancer refers to an abnormal cell growth; the biological makeup of a cell morphs and the cell begins reproducing rapidly, unable to stop.

Cancer can occur anywhere in your body and can be lethal. A general way to reduce your risk of getting cancer is to live a healthy lifestyle; that means eating healthy and exercising.

Obesity is an unhealthy lifestyle, and so increases your risk of cancer, specifically breast, kidney, colon, gallbladder, and endometrial cancers, which are linked to obesity.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition where a person’s breathing will stop repeatedly while they sleep. It is a condition that many people have without knowing it, as it occurs while they sleep.

Its symptoms include fatigue and difficulty focusing during the day. Obesity is one of the biggest risk factors for sleep apnea, as excess fat around the neck could impede breathing.


Arthritis is a disease associated with joint pain and stiffness. Having excess weight very simply increases the pressure on your joints and cartilage, causing them to wear down faster than they normally would.

This results in the bones of the joints grinding against each other, without the padding of the cartilage, which is the cause of your joint stiffness and aches.

The Pregnancy Risks

The pregnancy risks for a person considered obese are severe, for both the mother and her child.

Obese mothers are at an increased risk of a C-section, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia. Obesity also increases the risks of neural defects, premature birth, as well as infantile death before or during birth.

How to Fight Obesity?

The causes of obesity are linked to psychosocial factors, involving a general increase in sedentary lifestyles, availability of cheap food, excessive advertising for unhealthy food, as well as a general societal addiction to unhealthy foods.

Ignoring the issue will only make it worse. The first step to combating the plague that is obesity is knowledge.

Knowing what obesity is, where it comes from, and what it can lead to provides an important base to staying healthy.

Knowing how to live a healthful lifestyle is the second step. Passing this information on to your loved ones can prove imperative.

Obesity can be lethal, but it can also be prevented. You just have to know how. Even if you’re not an experienced sporter you can prevent is by going for a daily walk around the block or on your treadmill. Doing anything is always better than doing nothing!

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Article by:

Daniel DeMoss

I’m a personal trainer based in Denver (Matrix Gym) and a true fitness nerd. If I’m not training clients or working out at my home gym, I’m probably skiing, cycling or hiking with my dog Rufus.