Obesity – Associated Health Risks

By Jeanne Karson, NP

Obesity can cause severe damage to your body. It is the major cause of diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea as well as some cancers. These diseases can lead to disability, poor quality of life and early death. The following outlines the associated risks:

So, how do we combat obesity?

The World Health Organization recognizes obesity as a chronic, progressive disease. This is known to result from environmental and genetic factors. Obesity is costly not only from an economic standpoint, but also in terms of societal health, longevity and well-being. Obesity needs life-long treatment and control.

Diseases Associated with Obesity:


Diabetes leads to many health complications including amputations, heart disease, blindness, stroke, circulatory problems, increased infections as well as impotence.

Heart Disease:

The American Heart Association reports obesity as a major risk factor for heart disease. Persons with severe obesity are at increased risk of heart attack, heart failure and irregular heartbeats which, in turn, increases the risk of cardiac death.

Respiratory Problems:

Persons with obesity have reduced lung capacity which can increase risk for respiratory infections, asthma, and sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a severe breathing disorder that causes periods of apnea (when a person stops breathing for a period of time). Apnea reduces the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream. This can cause cardiac death, stroke, hypertension and heart failure. Further apnea episodes interrupt sleep, which can cause fatigue, drowsiness and cognitive impairment.

What are the benefits of bariatric surgery?

Bariatric surgery is an effective tool to provide long term weight loss and increasing quality of life. It’s been shown to improve and/or resolve the above-mentioned diseases. Weight reduction also lessens the need for medications to treat obesity related conditions.

Bariatric surgery (Gastric Bypass, Sleeve Gastrectomy and Adjustable Gastric Band) work by causing physiologic changes to the body that change energy balances and fat metabolism. It is important to remember that bariatric surgery is just a “tool” and needs to be integrated with lifestyle changes and behavioral modification.

Significant weight loss is associated with increased physical activity, which in turn leads to improvement in the body’s ability to burn fat. Further weight loss can lead to decrease in insulin levels and cortisol levels (stress hormone). Increase in physical activity is so important in combating obesity. Studies find more than 90% of bariatric patients are able to maintain a long term weight loss of 50% of excess body weight.

Bariatric surgery can be a useful tool to break the cycle of weight gain and assist with long term weight loss and improve your overall quality of life.

(American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, 2016)

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