Health Risks Associated With Obesity and Being Overweight

Obesity and even being overweight can have a significant impact on many aspects of personal health. In the USA alone, the prevalence of obesity is more than 40% in the adult population, according to the CDC.

More sedentary lifestyles and poor eating habits that lead to weight gain have been shown to increase the risk of several serious diseases including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Risk Factors of Obesity and Being Overweight

Today, obesity and being overweight are not only issues that adults should be concerned with. More than 17% of children are considered to overweight in the USA, something which could have a major impact on health management in the years to come.

Obese woman being inactive

Lack of Physical Activity

Obesity and excessive weight can have a spiralling effect on the individual in question. Obese people are less likely to exercise at all and typically live much more sedentary lifestyles. This in turn can cause more weight gain and raises the risk for additional health problems such as diabetes.

Not Enough Sleep

People who are obese are far more likely to suffer from conditions such as sleep apnea. This is where an individual momentarily stops breathing, causing disturbed sleep. Lack of proper sleep also leads to poor food choices because the individual feels tired and has low energy during the day.

High Amounts of Stress

Chronic social stress is also linked with obesity. An individual may ‘comfort’ eat because of stress in their job, for example. If they become obese, low self-esteem may further raise their stress levels and create another cycle that increases their weight.


Obesity is often seen as a result of addiction to food. As weight increases, this can become more profound for the individual. There is some evidence that individuals experience a similar effect to drug addiction with a build-up of tolerance, even to certain foods, and severe withdrawal when that food is limited or removed altogether.  

Health Risks Associated With Obesity

The challenge of obesity is that, unless an individual loses weight, they are at a higher risk of developing several serious diseases and medical conditions.

Heart Disease

Fatty deposits can collect in the arteries over time and contribute to the development of heart disease. People who are obese tend to have higher blood pressure and raised cholesterol levels because of the food they eat and their inactive lifestyles.

Type 2 Diabetes

One of the growing and most prevalent health conditions that has obesity as its main cause is type 2 diabetes, where the body is unable to metabolize its sugar supplies. This can lead to other health problems such as heart disease, nerve damage and impaired vision. It’s estimated that around 87% of people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are considered overweight or obese.


A stroke happens once the blood supply to the brain is suddenly cut off and can lead to muscle weakness, loss of speech and even death. Being overweight increases the risk of stroke by 22%. This rises to 64% if the individual is obese.

High Blood Pressure

When someone is obese, their heart needs to work harder to deliver blood to the rest of the body and this puts pressure on the artery walls. Over some time, this causes damage and puts the individual at more risk of heart disease and stroke.

Liver Disease

The liver is largely responsible for removing toxins from the body and a whole variety of other biological processes. When fat accumulates around this vital organ, it prevents it from working properly and can even lead to liver disease in the long run.

Certain Cancers

Obesity and being overweight have been linked to certain cancers that affect the colon, breast, kidney and prostate. According to the National Cancer Institute, for example, a 5% increase in BMI increases the risk of developing breast cancer by 12%.

Visceral Fat

Visceral fat, also known as ‘belly fat’, refers to the fat that is found wrapped around abdominal organs, rather than the fat that is located just below the skin (subcutaneous fat). Visceral fat can be particularly harmful to the overall health of an individual and can increase the risk of other serious medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

Gallbladder Disease

The gallbladder produces bile which assists the body in digesting fats. Being overweight increases the risk of developing gallstones that can block this small organ which is part of the digestive system.

Pregnancy Complications

Women who are both pregnant and overweight have an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes. They are also more at risk of developing blood clots during pregnancy and to experience premature birth.


Obesity also has a significant impact on mental health. Major depression is more likely if someone is obese and has low self-esteem because they are discriminated against because of their body size.

How to Tell if You Weigh Too Much

Individuals who are considered obese have a body mass index or BMI of more than 30. A healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9. You can check your BMI here. However, it’s important to note that BMI is not always a good indicator. BMI looks at the weight and the height of the individual. However, for those who have a high muscle composition, their weight in relation to height may lead to their BMI score being considered as high, when in actual fact they are perfectly healthy. With this in mind, it’s important to consider the age, sex, fat distribution, muscle composition and bone density of the individual when trying to determine if they are at a healthy weight.