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Health Problems Associated With Adult Obesity

Topic Overview

Adults with obesity are more likely to have certain health problems than adults who are not obese. These problems include the following.

Heart disease and cardiovascular problems

People who are obese have an increased risk of:

Diabetes

People who are obese are more likely to develop insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.

The risk of type 2 diabetes increases as BMI increases. People who have a large percentage of body fat in the abdominal area—a waist measurement greater than 40 in. (102 cm) in men and greater than 35 in. (89 cm) in women—are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes, even if their BMIs are within the normal range.

Cancer

People who are obese are at greater risk for different types of cancer, including:1

Digestive problems

People who are obese may have more digestive problems.2

  • Obesity increases the chance of having gallstones.
  • Obesity is linked with liver problems such as an enlarged liver (hepatomegaly), a fatty liver (steatosis), or cirrhosis.
  • Symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are more common in people who are obese than in people of normal weight.

Breathing problems

People who are obese may have difficulty breathing.

  • They are more likely to have sleep apnea.
  • Obesity is linked with a higher prevalence of asthma.
  • People who are obese tend to take smaller or shallower breaths (pickwickian syndrome). These small, gasping breaths may not get as much oxygen into the blood as needed, leaving them always tired. Pickwickian syndrome can eventually lead to heart problems.

Arthritis

People who are obese have a greater risk for arthritis. Extra weight puts more stress on the joints than normal, especially in the legs and lower back.

Sex hormone problems

Obesity is linked with:

Other problems

References

Citations

  1. American Cancer Society (2010). Cancer Prevention and Early Detection: Facts and Figures 2010. Atlanta: American Cancer Society. Available online: http://ww2.cancer.org/downloads/STT/Cancer_Prev_and_Early_Dect_2010.pdf.
  2. American Gastroenterological Association (2002, reapproved 2008). AGA technical review on obesity. Gastroenterology, 123(3): 882–932. [Erratum in Gastroenterology, 123(5): 1752.]

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Last Revised March 19, 2013

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