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Does Obesity Damage Body Organs?

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Obesity has been known to cause and exacerbate a good number of chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, stroke, heart diseases, and even some cancers. Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, let’s start with the basics like- How is obesity defined? Is being obese the same as being overweight? How do I know if I’m overweight or obese?

The answers to these can be very vague but in the clinical environment, Body Mass Index (BMI) is used to screen for the two precisely.

Adapted from Business Insider

BMI of 30 or higher: Obese category

BMI of 25 to 29: Overweight category

BMI of 18.5 to 24: Normal

BMI of less than 18.5: Underweight category

What’s your BMI? Find out here

Now let’s have a look at some of the illnesses that have been linked to obesity.

Type 2 Diabetes

Adapted from Science 

Obesity is a leading risk factor in the development of type 2 diabetes. Being obese or overweight affects the body’s ability to process sugars efficiently using insulin, thereby causing the (unprocessed) glucose levels in the blood to rise uncontrollably.

Stroke

Adapted from Healthfit24

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain is shut off, resulting in a lack of oxygen and nutrients supply to the affected brain tissue and subsequent tissue death. Obesity plays a role in the formation of the plaque that blocks the blood vessels supplying the brain.

Coronary Heart Disease

Adapted from National Heart Lung and Blood Institute 

Obesity increases the risk of developing coronary heart disease and it also plays a major role in hypertension. Just like strokes, being overweight or obese plays a role in the blockage of the blood vessels (coronary arteries) supplying the heart muscles. Disruption in the blood supply means that no blood is getting to the affected part of the heart, hence no oxygen and no nutrients (these are normally carried in the blood). The affected heart tissue dies and this process is what is known as coronary heart disease.

Dyslipidemia

Adapted from Advocate My Meds

Dyslipidemia is a term used to describe the disarray of the body’s lipid levels. As well as being a disorder on its own, it is also a risk factor in many other illnesses including but coronary heart disease and stroke.

Osteoarthritis

Adapted from Beltre Bariatrics

Being overweight makes you 4-5 times more likely to develop osteoarthritis, especially in the knees. The two conditions are so tightly intertwined that weight loss improves pain symptoms and slows disease progression of osteoarthritis significantly.

Depression

Adapted from US Health Works 

Being overweight or obese in some people can affect mental health. Undesirable body image could lead to diminished self-confidence, which could, in turn, affect the mood and if persistent, result in depression.

Obstructive Sleep Apnoea

Adapted from Hub Pages

Obesity is also a major contributory factor to sleep apnoea. Weight loss is actually a recommended conservative management strategy for sleep apnoea.

Some Groups of Cancer

Adapted from Cancer Research UK

Breast, gallbladder, kidney, colon, and endometrial cancers have all been linked to obesity in varying degrees.

Featured image: Asian Scientist

Dr Wendy Evans-Uhegbu

The author Dr Wendy Evans-Uhegbu

Dr. Wendy Evans-Uhegbu is a graduate of The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, with experience in Connected Health, Medical Technology, Clinical Research, Medical Education, and Web Design. She is a member of the Medics Abroad team with the role of Chief Communications Officer. She also runs a Medical Communications and Publishing business (www.odrcommunications.com), and is the author of the newly published children's book "The Things Around Me".

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