The consequences of obesity are much more complex and hidden than just external appearance. It's important to be aware of the emotional, medical, social and economic effects of being overweight or obese.
Negative Self-Image and Depression
When you gain excessive amounts of weight your self-esteem or self-image is negatively affected. You feel bad about your appearance and worry how others will judge you. Often times, when you are feeling down, this causes you to emotionally overeat and, in turn, exacerbate your weight gain. The more weight you gain, the more food you tend to eat. It's a vicious cycle that can contribute to losing hope in your ability to lose weight. This is especially true when you are depressed and feel emotionally out of control.
Depression is considered a medical illness and can cause some of you to isolate yourself and turn to food for comfort. Low self-esteem and depression may be a result of obesity, but they may also be caused by a pre-existing trauma or event. Dieting and exercise alone may not be successful if there are additional causes of low self-esteem that have not been addressed.
Losing weight isn't just about looking good and increasing self-esteem. More importantly, it's about improving overall health. Obesity can increase your risk of other illnesses and diseases. The life expectancy of an obese person is shorter than that of a normal weight person. Obese people have a 50% to 100% greater chance of dying prematurely from complications related to being overweight. Weight loss surgery patients experience improved quality of life after surgery, and reduced risk of premature death. Health risks associated with obesity include:
Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes
Obesity is often linked to Type 2 Diabetes, which is the most common type of diabetes. In Type II Diabetes, your body cannot effectively utilize the insulin that is produced. This disease is marked by high blood sugar, which can lead to other health complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, blindness and death. The good news is that losing weight is proven to improve or completely eliminate this disease. People who have weight loss surgery have a 75 to 85 percent chance of reversing the disease.
High Blood Pressure
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is characterized by a blood pressure greater than 140/90 mm hg (millimeters of mercury). Your heart works to pump blood through your blood vessels, creating pressure against the vessel walls. Hypertension is the result of this pressure being too high. In this case, your heart is working harder to pump blood and this could lead to organ damage and several illnesses such as heart attack, stroke, heart failure, aneurysm or kidney failure.
Approximately 1 in 5 adults have hypertension. If your BMI is higher than 25 (overweight) you have a much greater risk. Men are more often affected than women. Weight loss, a healthy low sodium diet and a regular exercise regimen can reduce blood pressure to a healthier level, decreasing your risk of associated health conditions.
Sleep Apnea and Asthma
Sleep apnea is a condition referring to short periods of not breathing while one is asleep. Hundreds of these short periods can happen every night, causing heavy snoring and interrupted sleep. This can lead to daytime sleepiness. In severe cases, sleep apnea may be an indicator of the beginning of heart failure.
Asthma is a chronic breathing disease that is more common in obese people. It could be due to the fact that obese people cannot expand their lungs as much as normal weight people. Obese people may experience inflammation originating from fat tissue which affects smooth muscle and can cause excessive narrowing of the airways. Hormones, like leptin, are produced by fat and are inflammatory affecting the tissues which make up airways. Leptin is found to be higher in obese people and in people with asthma regardless of their body weight.
The risk for sleep apnea and asthma increases with higher body weight. A reduction in body weight can reverse the risk of these medical problems.
Heart Disease and Stroke
Heart disease and stroke are a leading cause of death in the western world. Heart disease includes coronary heart disease, heart attack, congestive heart failure and congenital heart disease. A stroke occurs when a blocked or burst blood vessel prevents oxygen from getting to the brain, causing a temporary or permanent loss of brain function.
Obese people are at significantly more risk for developing heart disease and stroke than people who are at a normal weight. Obesity leads to heart attack and stroke precursors, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and contributes to angina (chest pain due to a lack of oxygen to the heart).
Weight loss surgery has been proven to reduce patient risk for developing heart disease by 82 percent.
Many obese people experience joint pain from excess weight, most often in the hips, knees and lower back. Arthritis is a chronic joint pain disorder that is characterized by the wearing away of cartilage that cushions those joints. Results of hip and knee surgery can be enhanced by weight loss surgery.
Infertility and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
Being overweight interferes with hormone levels in your body and can prevent ovulation or make your periods irregular. When you do not ovulate regularly it can be difficult to conceive. Infertility treatments have a lower success rate in women who are obese. Also related to obesity is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. PCOS is strongly linked to insulin resistance, and women who are overweight have a higher prevalence of insulin resistance. With PCOS a woman may not ovulate without the help of medications, and therefore, may need to resort to fertility drugs when trying to conceive. An overweight woman's body may not respond to these drugs as effectively.
Women who reduce their weight through diet, exercise, medication and surgery have a greater chance of resolving infertility issues and infertility caused by the effects of PCOS.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
GERD is the reflux of stomach acid into your esophagus causing heartburn, regurgitation and a sour or bitter taste in your mouth. GERD can make eating an uncomfortable experience. Researchers have found a consistent link between overweight individuals and the occurrence of GERD. Overweight people are twice as likely to experience GERD as normal weight people. This could be due to excess body fat compressing the stomach, the effects of certain foods or hernias. Weight loss is important in preventing GERD or alleviating existing symptoms of GERD.
Other Obesity Related Diseases
Obesity can contribute to many other health complications, including cancer, gall bladder disease, gout, high cholesterol, fatty liver disease, migraines, stress urinary incontinence and metabolic syndrome, among others.
Difficulties with Day to Day Living
Everyday tasks become more difficult when you are obese. Bathing, dressing, bending over, going up and down stairs, getting out of bed, moving from sitting to standing, fitting into vehicles, cooking, shopping and many other daily functions are harder as your movement and flexibility is impeded by excess weight.
Weight loss can greatly improve your mobility and make everyday tasks easier to perform. If you have relied on others to help you with daily activities, surgery can help you regain independence and enhance your confidence and self-esteem.
Society has negative attitudes towards overweight people who are often judged on their lifestyles, appearance or character. Discrimination comes in many forms, besides negative attitudes and perceptions. Obese people endure daily obstacles because of their weight. Airplane seats and movie theatre seats are not equipped for the morbidly obese, and in some instances these individuals incur extra charges over normal weight people. In the workplace obese people may experience lost productivity and fewer work promotions.
Studies have shown that obese people have concerns about the attitudes of health care professionals, even though these professionals understand their condition. They are worried they will be judged, or are concerned that doctor's visits may be embarrassing, especially when they are being weighed. At West Georgia Health patients readily notice we are here for them and focused on their well-being.
It is difficult to shake the obesity stigma and defend against stereotypes. Obese people often find themselves having to explain why they are overweight and feeling pressure to provide socially acceptable explanations for their body weight. Weight loss surgery is one way obese people can fight their own medical and personal issues and combat society's negative attitudes. Surgery can be a win-win situation for many who struggle to be accepted.
Obesity has a large annual economic impact on you and your family. Like any other medical condition, obesity involves more health risks and their associated health costs. Personal expenses include doctor's visits, medications, higher insurance premiums, insurance co-pays, and food and commercial weight loss program costs. A single obese person may have as much as $700 in additional pharmacy costs per year. Weight loss surgery can dramatically reduce these expenses over time.