Obesity is commonly defined as having too much body mass. A BMI of 30 or higher is the usual benchmark for obesity in adults. A BMI of 40 or higher is considered severe (formerly “morbid”) obesity. Childhood obesity is measured against growth charts. It is a complex, chronic disease that lead to excessive body fat and sometimes poor health.
How does obesity affect the body?
Obesity affects the body in many ways. Some are simply the mechanical effects of having more body fat. For example, you can draw a clear line between extra weight on your body and extra pressure on your skeleton and joints. Other effects are more subtle, such as chemical changes in your blood that increase your risk for diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
Some effects are still not well understood. For example, there is an increased risk of certain cancers with obesity. We don’t know why, but it exists. Statistically, obesity increases your risk of premature death from all causes. By the same token, studies show that you can significantly improve these risks by losing even a small amount of weight (5% to 10%).
Your metabolism is the process of converting calories into energy to fuel your body’s functions. When your body has more calories than it can use, it converts the extra calories into lipids and stores them in your adipose tissue (body fat). When you run out of tissue to store lipids in, the fat cells themselves become enlarged. Enlarged fat cells secrete hormones and other chemicals that produce an inflammatory response.
Chronic inflammation has many adverse health effects. One way that it affects your metabolism is by contributing to insulin resistance. This means your body can no longer use insulin to efficiently lower blood glucose and blood lipid levels (sugars and fats in your blood). High blood sugar and blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) also contribute to high blood pressure.
Together, these combined risk factors are known as metabolic syndrome. They are grouped together because they all tend to reinforce each other. They also reinforce further weight gain and make it harder to lose weight and sustain weight loss. Metabolic syndrome is a common factor in obesity and contributes to many related diseases, including:
Type 2 diabetes. Obesity specifically raises the risk of Type 2 diabetes seven-fold in people assigned male at birth and 12-fold in people assigned female at birth. The risk increases by 20% for every additional point you gain on the BMI scale. It also diminishes with weight loss.
Cardiovascular diseases. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar and inflammation are all risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, including coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, heart attack and stroke. These risks increase hand-in-hand with your BMI. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of preventable death worldwide and in the U.S.
Fatty liver disease. Excess fats circulating in your blood make their way to your liver, which is responsible for filtering your blood. When your liver begins storing excess fat, it can lead to chronic liver inflammation (hepatitis) and long-term liver damage (cirrhosis).
Gallstones. Higher blood cholesterol levels can cause cholesterol to accumulate in your gallbladder, leading to cholesterol gallstones and potential gallbladder diseases.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 adults with obesity also has arthritis. Studies have shown that for every 5 kg in weight gain, your risk of knee arthritis increases by 36%. The good news is that, together with exercise, weight loss of 10% can significantly reduce arthritis-related pain and improve your quality of life.
Obesity is also associated indirectly with:
- Memory and cognition, including a heightened risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
- Female infertility and pregnancy complications
- Depression and mood disorders
- Certain cancers, including esophageal, pancreatic, colorectal, breast, uterine and ovarian
How is obesity treated?
Your complete health profile will determine your individual treatment plan. Your healthcare provider will target your most urgent health concerns first, then follow up with a longer-term weight loss plan. Sometimes there may be quick changes they can recommend for an immediate impact, like switching your medications. The overall treatment plan will be more gradual and probably involve many factors. Since everyone is different, it may take some trial and error to figure out which therapies work best for you. Studies have repeatedly shown that intense, team-based programs with frequent, personal communication between your provider and you are the most successful in helping people lose weight and keep it off.
Your treatment plan may include:
- Dietary changes
- Increased physical activity
- Regular exercise
- Behavioral therapies
**Taken from the myclevelandclinic.org.**