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Top 10 obesity health issues; why obesity harms you health

About two-thirds (63%) of adults are overweight or obese. Obesity has been considered a national health burden in Australia. In fact in countries like America it is now considered to be a ‘chronic disease”. But why is this so? Obesity is associated with over 60 numerous and varied comorbid conditions. This is when excess fat adversely affects our health. Complications can occur in many organs systems ranging from cardiovascular to respiratory to orthopaedic. Obesity is a risk factor for the development of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoarthritis, sleep apnoea and some cancers (uterine, breast colorectal, kidney and bladder). Also, obesity is associated with high blood cholesterol, menstrual irregularities, polycystic ovarian syndrome, hirsutism (excessive hair growth), pregnancy complications, psychological disorders and stress incontinence. Quality of life is also negatively affected by obesity, with poor self esteem, social discrimination, with inequalities in employment, and education. About 80% of obese patients will develop at least one of these comorbid conditions and at least 60% will develop three!

 In fact, obesity is associated with a 2.5 greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or cancer; as well as shortening life expectancy by about 7 years. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing in 2003, obesity was responsible for 7% of total deaths in Australia; two thirds from ischaemic heart disease and diabetes.

So what are the top 10 obesity complications?

1; Diabetes and Insulin Resistance.

The heavier you are the more likely you are to develop diabetes. Obesity is responsible for approximately 25% of patients with diabetes. A patient with obesity has over 3 times the risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes can worsen obesity as many of the drugs used to treat diabetes are obesogenic (eg: insulin). The problem with diabetes is that it leads to cardiovascular disease (stokes and heart attacks), kidney failure and eye disease and limb amptutations. Also, diabetes is one of the top 10 leading causes of death.

2; High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is one of the most common complications of obesity. Clinical studies have shown that excess weight may be responsible for 65 to 78% of high blood pressure in women and men. The more weight the higher the blood pressure and the greater the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.

3; Elevated Blood Cholesterol

Elevated blood cholesterol has long been recognised as a complication of obesity. It is a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease.

4; Cardiovascular Disease

Obesity leads to an increase in both heart attacks and strokes, independent of the effects associated with diabetes, hypertension, and elevated cholesterol. A report from Access Economics estimated that in 2008, obesity was involved in 21% of cardiovascular disease (heart disease and strokes).

5; Fatty Liver Disease

One of the most common diseases associated with obesity is non alcohol fatty liver disease. Fatty liver is due to excessive accumulation of fat in the liver cells. The normal healthy liver tissue is replaced by unhealthy fat cells which damage the liver. If untreated fatty liver disease can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and permanently damaging the liver. One review estimates that between 69% to 100% of patients with fatty liver are obese.

6: Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

About 70% of people with obstructive sleep apnoea are obese. The good news is that weight loss surgery reduces OSA and symptoms such as day time somnolence.

7; Osteoarthritis and Weight Bearing Joint Pain.

Over 50% of patients with obesity have osteoarthritis or weight bearing joint pain. For every 1kg of weight gained, the risk of osteoarthritis of the knee or hand increased by 9 to 11 %. Conversely the famous Framingham reported that decreasing the BMI by 2 units or more over a 10 year period reduced the risk of developing osteoarthritis in the knee by 50%.

8; Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Infertility

Obesity women are more likely to develop infertility, menstrual irregularities and pregnancy (with obstetric) complications. About 10% of obese women have PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).

9: Cancer
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that between 25% to 33% of cancers are caused by obesity. There is increased risk for colon cancer, breast (postmenopausal), oesophageal cancer, endometrial and kidney cancer. As an example, obesity is associated with a 2 to 3 fold increased risk of endometrial cancer.

10; Psychological Disorders (Anxiety, Depression).

The higher the BMI the greater the degree of mood and anxiety disorders. Patients with obesity often report negative self image, feelings of guilt, hopelessness and poor self esteem. This is made worse by repeated attempts at failed weight loss, especially in young women with poor body image. About 20% of patients report depression. Indeed depression can lead to obesity, due to inactivity and self indulgence in comfort behaviours (including eating) as well as side effects of antidepressant medications which induce weight gain.

So, the good news is that obesity and its adverse effect on your health can be treated. There are now numerous clinical studies and clinical trials which have shown that;

1; Weight loss following bariatric surgery is accompanied by;
a; improvement and/or resolution of many of the obesity complications listed above as well as
b: improvement in quality of life, and
c: improvement in physical and mental well being
2; Furthermore, in one of the longest clinical trials in bariatric surgery the Swedish Obesity Study (SOS) which have been following over 2000 patients up for over 10 years, has shown that bariatric surgery was associated with a 44% reduction in the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

So, bariatric surgery reduces the burden of disease.

About Us

Combining a team approach to treatment and providing dietary and nutritional advice as well as personalised lifestyle training will result in the best results from weight-loss surgery.


Westmead Private Hospital

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