The Health Risks Of Being Overweight

By Delialah Falcon. May 7th 2016

When embarking on a mission to lose weight, the number one reason given by most people is that they want to look good and feel better about themselves. While these are certainly valid reasons to try to shed those excess pounds, they certainly aren’t the only ones. Many people overlook the fact that being overweight is a major health hazard that places people at risk for developing a host of ailments.

Heart Disease

Heat disease is one of the most well-known conditions affecting individuals who are overweight or obese. The term heart disease refers to a variety of conditions affecting the heart, including atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease, angina and heart attack. Being overweight increases the risk of developing certain conditions that have been known to contribute to the development of heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high triglycerides and inflammatory conditions.

High blood pressure causes the heart to pump harder, placing greater pressure on the arteries. When this continues for an extended amount of time, it can affect the heart. In people who are overweight, the arteries that supply the heart develop a build-up of fatty deposits, which narrows the arteries and restricts blood flow to the heart. This can lead to chest pain, heart attack, blood clots or stroke.

High Cholesterol

People who are overweight have a greater chance of developing high cholesterol than individuals who maintain a healthy weight. Children and teens can also develop high cholesterol. Even in the absence of illness or symptoms, many obese teenagers have high total cholesterol, low HDL (good) cholesterol and high triglycerides. These abnormal blood lipid levels increase the risk of heart attack during adulthood.


Overweight individuals are at an increased risk of developing certain cancers. Overweight women are more likely to develop certain types of cancer than women who maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight is linked to:

  • Breast cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Gallbladder cancer

Women who gain in excess of 20 pounds from the time they are 18 until they reach midlife are twice as likely to develop breast cancer as women who maintain consistent weight over the years. Overweight men are more likely to develop cancer of the colon and prostate than men who are in the normal weight range.

Although it is not clear why being overweight increases the risk of developing certain cancers, one theory suggests that fat cells in the body release certain hormones that interfere with cell growth, which can lead to the development of cancer.

Bone And Muscle Problems

Carrying around excess weight can take a toll on the body. Being overweight causes excess wear and tear on the joints, which can lead to the development of arthritis. Arthritis that occurs as a result of being overweight can affect children as well as adults. Obese adults are also at risk of developing osteoarthritis. People who are overweight or obese often complain of muscle aches and bone pain, likely a result of the strain places on the bones, muscles, ligaments and joints due to excess weight.

Problems With Internal Organs

Diseases and conditions that affect the internal organs are common in individuals who are overweight or obese. Gallstones develop as a result of bile accumulation in the gallbladder, which leads to the development of the stones. This painful condition often requires surgery to remove the stones. Fatty liver is a condition in which fat accumulates in the liver, which can lead to inflammation of the liver, the development of scar tissue and irreversible liver damage.

Metabolic Disorders

Metabolic disorders involve problems with the endocrine system and hormonal imbalances. Overweight or obese individuals are much more likely to suffer from metabolic disorders. This is believed to be a direct result of excess fat disrupting normal hormone balance in overweight individuals. Metabolic disorders often experienced by people who are overweight include:

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Insulin resistance
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Diabetes

Reproductive Disorders

Overweight women who are trying to conceive may experience infertility. This is largely due to hormonal imbalances that can develop as a result of being overweight. Some conditions, such as PCOS, can cause weight gain, creating a vicious cycle of hormone disruption. Women who are overweight or obese are more likely to suffer from irregular menstrual cycles, anovulation, absent periods, painful menstruation and PMS than women who maintain a healthy weight. 

Complications During Pregnancy

Women who are overweight or obese increase their risk of developing pregnancy complications that can affect both the mother and the baby. Overweight women who are pregnant have an increased risk of developing:

  • Pre-eclampsia (pregnancy-induced high blood pressure)
  • Gestational diabetes (pregnancy-induced diabetes)
  • Difficult labor
  • Failure to progress during labor
  • Cesarean section
  • Babies born with low blood sugar
  • Premature birth
  • Stillbirth
  • Being born with neural tube defects

Overweight women are more susceptible to developing insulin resistance, high blood pressure and high blood sugar during their pregnancy than those women in the normal weight range. Women who are overweight can significantly reduce these risks by losing weight prior to getting pregnant.


Both children and adults who are overweight have an increased risk of developing asthma. If asthma develops, it can interfere with exercise, which can hinder weight loss efforts. Some have found that losing weight can help reduce asthma symptoms.

Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders are common among people who are overweight or obese. Sleep apnea is very common among overweight individuals. Sleep apnea interferes with normal sleep patterns, causes a disruption in normal breathing, and can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness and irritability due to disturbed sleep. Left untreated, it can also lead to the development of heart problems.

In addition to the commonplace conditions that develop as a result of being overweight or obese, such as heart disease and diabetes, there is a long list of other conditions that can occur. These other conditions, though less commonly referred to when speaking about health risks of obesity, are every bit as important as the more talked about conditions. All health risks of being overweight or obese should be taken seriously and a weight loss plan should be discussed with a doctor as soon as possible.


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