Obesity and overweight are common terms used to describe body-fat ranges that seriously increase your risks for health ailments. These ranges are commonly determined with a measurement system called body mass index, or BMI. In addition to raising your long-term disease risks, being obese or overweight can trigger a variety of noticeable effects on your body.
If you’re overweight, day-to-day physical changes associated with your condition may include pain in your joints or back, high perceived body temperature and excessive sweating, breathlessness with minor exertion, rashes in the folds of your skin, development of a wear-and-tear form of arthritis called osteoarthritis, and the onset of sleep apnea, a potentially dangerous disruption of your breathing during sleep. Additional possible effects of excessive weight include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, dangerous fat accumulations on your liver, female infertility, the development of gallstones and increasing resistance to the effects of insulin, a hormone needed to control the glucose content of your blood.
Some overweight and obese individuals have simultaneous health risks associated with their weight, including large amounts of abdominal fat, high blood pressure, increased insulin resistance, low levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol and high levels of harmful LDL cholesterol and a fatty blood-borne substance called triglyceride. Together, these risks constitute a condition called metabolic syndrome. If you have metabolic syndrome, you have significantly increased risks for the development of serious ailments such as coronary heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
Apart from metabolic syndrome, being overweight or obese significantly increases your risks for the development of various types of heart-related problems, including hardening of your arteries, chest pain, heart attack and heart failure, which occurs when your heart can’t pump sufficient amounts of blood to your body. Carrying excessive amounts of body fat also increases your risks for cancer in your gallbladder, colon, breast and the endometrial lining in your uterus. Being overweight can also trigger the onset of polycystic ovarian syndrome, a disorder that disrupts several aspects of a normal menstrual cycle.
Typical BMI testing uses your weight-to-height ratio to assess your body-fat levels and determine your potential weight-related health risks. However, your doctor must also include other factors when determining your actual risks, including your waist circumference and level of physical activity. Obesity is increasingly common in American children, and obese or overweight children have significantly increased chances of retaining their weight levels into adulthood. Consult your doctor for more information.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Defining Overweight and Obesity; June, 2010
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Overweight and Obesity; Health Consequences; August, 2009
- National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: What Are the Health Risks of Overweight and Obesity?
- MayoClinic.com: Obesity; Symptoms; October, 2010
- KidsHealth.org: When Being Overweight Is a Health Problem (Page 3); October, 2010
- Weight-Control Information Network: Do You Know the Health Risks of Being Overweight?; December, 2007