Overweight individuals can take steps to reduce health risks

December 22, 2003|by Christine L. Moats

There are several risks of being overweight, according to the Weightcontrol Information Network (WIN) of the National Institutes of Health. Overweight individuals are more likely to develop health problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, uncontrolled blood sugar and joint problems.

"These conditions can lead to major health problems," noted registered dietician Tim Higgins, clinical manager of Nutrition Services at Washington County Hospital. "The more overweight a person is, the more likely these issues will appear and worsen over time."

  • Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. They are caused by high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fats) which clog arteries and smaller blood vessels. Overweight individuals who lose as little as 10 percent of their body weight can improve these conditions and reduce the chance of developing heart disease and stroke.

  • Overweight people are twice as likely to develop diabetes. Diabetes is a major cause of early death, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, blindness and amputation. Obese persons with Type 2 diabetes may have a reduced ability to control their blood sugar. Weight loss and exercise may help control blood sugar and possibly reduce the amount of medications needed.

  • Obesity is associated with elevated risk for certain cancers. Women who are overweight are at greater risk of developing cancer of the uterus, gallbladder, cervix, ovary, breast and colon. Overweight men are at greater risk for cancer of the colon, rectum and prostate.

  • The risk for sleep apnea, including heart failure, increases with higher body weights. Sleep apnea can cause a person to snore heavily and stop breathing for short periods of time. Weight loss can improve this condition.

  • Overweight people can more readily develop osteoarthritis and gout. The extra pressure on joints due to excess weight causes the cartilage to wear away, exposing the joints. Gout is caused by excess uric acid which crystallizes and deposits in the joints. Both of these conditions can improve with weight loss.

A slow and steady weight loss of no more than one pound per week achieved by eating better and increasing physical activity is a safe way to lose weight. Even a small weight loss of 5 to 10 percent of body weight can improve your health and decrease your risk for serious diseases.


- Sources: The Weight-control Information Network;; and

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