overweight obesity dangers health complications
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Overweight (having a body mass index of more than 25) and obesity (BMI greater than 30) are increasingly prevalent health issues across the world, [1] including in India. [2] The 2015-16 National Family Health Survey revealed that approximately 27% of Indian men and 31% of Indian women are overweight or obese (i.e. have a BMI over 25). These numbers are almost twice that of the 2005-6 survey. [2] This poses a serious health concern because people who are overweight or obese have many complications and comorbidities.

Disorders of the heart and blood vessels (cardiovascular disorders): 

Obesity is well known to considerably increase the risk of various cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure (hypertension) and ischaemic heart disease (angina and heart attacks). The risk of developing coronary artery disease (i.e. blood vessels of the heart being blocked by cholesterol plaques) doubles when BMI is >29 as compared to a BMI of 21-23. Elevated BMI also causes various heart diseases such as heart failure and ventricular hypertrophy. [3]

Diabetes mellitus: 

A BMI of greater than  30 increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus by almost nine times as compared to a BMI < 25. [3]

Dyslipidemia: 

Dyslipidemia (increase in blood cholesterol levels) is more prevalent in people who are overweight or obese because higher body fat tends to unbalance the lipid profile. Even 1 kg of weight loss can bring down total cholesterol by almost  0.9 mg/dl. [3]

Stroke: 

People who are obese are twice as likely to have a stroke as those with BMI < 23. [4] Remember that carrying more belly fat also puts you at a higher risk for most diseases, including a stroke.

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA): 

This is a very common and often ignored condition among those who are overweight or obese. People with this condition tend to snore and have problems sleeping. Even a mild to moderate weight loss can considerably reduce OSA. [3]

Gastrointestinal diseases: 

Another common, but less emphasised, problem that overweight/obese people face is issues with their gut. Some studies have found that they have a higher tendency to suffer from acidity and acid reflux. They also tend to have more issues with gallstones. Obesity, especially central obesity, is also linked to liver disease (especially non-alcoholic fatty liver disease). 85% of all obese people (BMI > 40) tend to have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. [4] In all these cases, reduction of weight considerably reduces the risk of the diseases. [3, 5]

Arthritis: 

Higher than normal body weight is very strongly linked to arthritis or joint pains.  In fact, each kg of increased weight raises the risk of arthritis in joints. Conversely, weight loss reverses the increased risk. [3]

Complications during pregnancy: 

Obesity in pregnant women can cause many problems in both the mother (e.g., diabetes and high blood pressure) and the baby (e.g., shoulder dystocia). It also complicates delivery, leading to higher chances of caesarean delivery and infection, as well as miscarriages. [3, 4]

Sexual health and fertility: 

Obesity reduces fertility in both men and women (e.g., low sperm count and polycystic ovarian disease or PCOD respectively). Obese men also tend to have more cases of erectile dysfunction than men with average weight. [4]

Overall mortality: 

Some studies have shown a link between obesity and a higher risk of death. This risk tends to be higher as your BMI climbs to greater than 35.[3]

In summary, higher than average body weight ushers in a host of other problems, and the increase in risk often is higher in people with higher BMIs. To complicate this further, different diseases may interact with each other and make the problems worse. Fortunately, weight loss considerably cuts down the increased risk, and thus improves not only physical health but also sexual health and sleep.

References:

  1. Kinlen D, Cody D, O’Shea D. Complications of obesity. QJM: An International Journal of Medicine. 2017 Jul 24;111(7):437-43.
  2. India National Family Health Survey 2015–2016. Mumbai: International Institute for Population Sciences; 2017.
  3. Malnick SD, Knobler H. The medical complications of obesity. Journal of the Association of Physicians. 2006 Sep 1;99(9):565-79.
  4. Kinlen D, Cody D, O’Shea D. Complications of obesity. QJM: An International Journal of Medicine. 2017 Jul 24;111(7):437-43.
  5. Camilleri M, Malhi H, Acosta A. Gastrointestinal complications of obesity. Gastroenterology. 2017 May 1;152(7):1656-70.

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