Health Risks of Overweight & Obesity
Overweight and obesity may raise your risk for certain health problems and may be linked to certain emotional and social problems.
What are some health risks of overweight and obesity?
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. About 8 out of 10 people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or have obesity.8 Over time, high blood glucose leads to problems such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, eye problems, nerve damage, and other health problems.
If you are at risk for type 2 diabetes, losing 5 to 7 percent of your body weight and getting regular physical activity may prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.
High blood pressure
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a condition in which blood flows through your blood vessels with a force greater than normal. High blood pressure can strain your heart, damage blood vessels, and raise your risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and death.
Heart disease is a term used to describe several problems that may affect your heart. If you have heart disease, you may have a heart attack, heart failure, sudden cardiac death, angina, or an abnormal heart rhythm. High blood pressure, abnormal levels of blood fats, and high blood glucose levels may raise your risk for heart disease. Blood fats, also called blood lipids, include HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.
Losing 5 to 10 percent of your weight may lower your risk factors for developing heart disease. If you weigh 200 pounds, this means losing as little as 10 pounds. Weight loss may improve blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood flow.
Stroke is a condition in which the blood supply to your brain is suddenly cut off, caused by a blockage or the bursting of a blood vessel in your brain or neck. A stroke can damage brain tissue and make you unable to speak or move parts of your body. High blood pressure is the leading cause of strokes.
Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which you do not breathe regularly while sleeping. You may stop breathing altogether for short periods of time. Untreated sleep apnea may raise your risk of other health problems, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions that put you at risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. These conditions are
- high blood pressure
- high blood glucose levels
- high triglyceride levels in your blood
- low levels of HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) in your blood
- too much fat around your waist
Fatty liver diseases
Fatty liver diseases are conditions in which fat builds up in your liver. Fatty liver diseases include nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Fatty liver diseases may lead to severe liver damage, cirrhosis, or even liver failure.
Osteoarthritis is a common, long-lasting health problem that causes pain, swelling, and reduced motion in your joints. Being overweight or having obesity may raise your risk of getting osteoarthritis by putting extra pressure on your joints and cartilage.
Overweight and obesity may raise your risk of getting gallbladder diseases, such as gallstones and cholecystitis. Imbalances in substances that make up bile cause gallstones. Gallstones may form if bile contains too much cholesterol.
Cancer is a collection of related diseases. In all types of cancer, some of the body’s cells begin to divide without stopping and spread into surrounding tissues. Overweight and obesity may raise your risk of developing certain types of cancer.
Kidney disease means that your kidneys are damaged and can’t filter blood like they should. Obesity raises the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, the most common causes of kidney disease. Even if you don’t have diabetes or high blood pressure, obesity itself may promote kidney disease and quicken its progress.
Overweight and obesity raise the risk of health problems that may occur during pregnancy. Pregnant women who are overweight or obese may have a greater chance of
- developing gestational diabetes
- having preeclampsia—high blood pressure during pregnancy, which can cause severe health problems for mother and baby if left untreated
- needing a cesarean section, or C-section and, as a result, taking longer to recover after giving birth
What emotional and social problems are linked to overweight and obesity?
Overweight and obesity are associated with mental health problems such as depression. People who deal with overweight and obesity may also be the subject of weight bias and stigma from others, including health care providers. This can lead to feelings of rejection, shame, or guilt—further worsening mental health problems.
This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.
The NIDDK would like to thank:
Jamy D. Ard, Wake Forest Baptist Health, Wake Forest School of Medicine