Obesity & Wheezing

Obesity has been linked to several health risks, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer. In addition, obesity, which is defined as a body mass index of 30 or more, may also be linked to difficulty breathing, wheezing and asthma. If you are wheezing frequently and suspect obesity may be related, consult your doctor for an evaluation.

Your weight may be affecting your breathing. (Image: Monkey Business Images/Monkey Business/Getty Images)


Wheezing happens when a person is breathing through constricted or narrowed airways, resulting in high-pitched whistling-like noises that accompany each breath. Obesity is recognized as a possible cause of wheezing, reports the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Among obese children, the rate of wheezing was measured at almost 70 percent in one study published in the January 2011 issue of the "Italian Journal of Pediatrics."


In addition to wheezing, obesity has also been linked to other symptoms of asthma including coughing, difficulty breathing and chest tightness. In particular, obesity seems to be strongly linked with severe asthma. In one study of people forced to go to the emergency by severe asthma symptoms, roughly 75 percent were either overweight or obese, reports an article published in the April 2006 issue of the journal "Pharmacology and Therapeutics."

Sleep Apnea

The effect of obesity on wheezing and asthma may be related to an increased risk of sleep apnea and other sleeping disturbances among obese people. People with sleep apnea stop breathing for brief periods of time while sleeping, leading to poor sleeping, daytime sleepiness and exhaustion. People who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of sleep apnea, reports the Weight-Control Information Network.


The reason obesity causes wheezing and other breathing difficulties is not fully understood. One theory is that higher levels of fat around the neck may constrict the airways, making breathing harder, especially when lying down, explains the Weight-Control Information Network. In addition, high levels of fat may also result in inflammation of the airways, increasing the risk of asthma. Obesity also raises the risk of gastroesophageal reflux and reduces lung capacity, both of which may contribute to wheezing and asthma, reports "Pharmacology and Therapeutics."

Load Comments

Copyright © 2019 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use , Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy . The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.