Carrying extra weight has become very common in the United States. Putting aside social issues such as body image and healthy self-esteem, extra weight can have many deleterious health effects on the body, leading to some serious concerns. Here are just a few of those concerns. There are many others—some estimates put the number of health concerns related to weight at more than 50.
Heart and Circulatory Problems
The most common problems people who carry extra weight will experience are related to the heart and the blood or circulatory system. These can range from high blood pressure to high levels of cholesterol to weakened blood vessels that can lead to aneurisms or strokes and heart attacks. Extra weight means more fat cells in the body, and the more fat cells, the more blood vessels that provide blood to those cells. It is estimated that for every pound of fat you gain, the body produces seven miles of blood vessels to support it. This requires the heart to work harder to pump blood, leading to many related circulatory problems. Increased cholesterol can clog arteries, taxing the system even further.
Between 80 and 90 percent of people with Type-2 Diabetes are overweight. This is generally a consequence of having a high blood sugar level, which taxes your body’s ability to process the sugar. When the pancreas releases insulin to carry the sugar to various parts of the body, extra weight can cause the cells to become insulin-resistant. This will make it harder for the body to process sugar, leading to a diabetic condition.
Carrying extra weight is an additional stress on the skeletal-muscular system. As weight accumulates, it will affect the way someone walks or carries themselves, which will put added pressure on joints and muscles. This problem can be especially exacerbated in the lower spine, which has many moving parts and constitutes the center of most body movement. Over time, this added stress can begin to damage the joints, causing chronic back pain. This added stress on all the joints can also lead to osteoarthritis, which can cause further pain and discomfort.
Sleep Apnea is a condition in which people stop breathing for periods sometimes lasting a minute or two while they sleep. This disrupts the sleep cycle and reduces the oxygen level in the blood, affecting the heart and blood vessels. Extra weight might accumulate as fat in the neck, which can narrow the breathing passages and make it harder to breathe. Over time, sleep disruptions and reduced oxygen can lead to even further conditions such as daytime sleepiness, difficulty focusing, and even heart failure.
Although it’s often assumed that social conditions lead overweight people to depression, there is some evidence that both depression and weight gain are linked to specific brain chemistry. In any case, gaining weight can lead to depression, which can itself lead to eating more and gaining further weight. Depression and weight gain are often inextricably linked. Depression, whatever its cause, is a serious mental condition that can lead to very risky behavior and other negative health consequences.
Weight gain is a serious problem with many serious health consequences, but there are ways to combat both the consequences and the extra weight. Most of the time, a doctor will suggest a healthy diet and exercise, but it’s important to be checked out to see if there are any underlying problems. Being overweight or obese is now recognized as a medical condition for which there are four prescription medications and one over-the-counter medication FDA-approved for helping those who have failed to lose sufficient weight through diet and exercise alone, though use of these medications without dietary adjustment is not recommended. If you have any concerns or questions about weight, or any other health concerns in Southwest Florida, be sure to contact Internal Medicine, Lipid, and Wellness of Fort Myers at (239) 362-3005, extension 200. Dr. Kordonowy is familiar with the medications associated with weight loss and there is a dietician on site to help counsel patients with diet changes to help facilitate improving weight and reducing risks and problems associated with carrying extra weight.