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5 Health Risks Tied to Weight

While nearly four in 10 Americans are obese, it shouldn't be viewed as the new normal. It comes with a steep cost that you pay for with your health and life.

guy checking his watch for health metrics
Updated August 17, 2020

Is obesity the new normal? The fact that nearly four in 10 Americans are obese would make you think so. But, obesity is anything but normal or healthy. It comes with a steep cost that you pay for with your health and life. 

Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above. While some think of how obesity affects appearance, more important, is how it affects your overall health and risk for developing life-threatening diseases. 

These risks include: 

Heart attack, stroke, and diabetes

In people who are obese, the heart needs to work harder to pump blood around the body, leading to high blood pressure. Obesity also disrupts your body’s normal response to fats, leading to higher triglyceride and LDL “bad” cholesterol levels, and lower HDL “good” cholesterol. High cholesterol, blood pressure and triglycerides all greatly increase your likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke. 

In addition, obesity makes your body’s cells resistant to insulin. Insulin transports sugar from the food you eat to your cells for energy. When this process isn’t working, not enough glucose gets to your cells and your blood sugar levels become too high, over time leading to diabetes.

Besides contributing to your heart attack and stroke risk, diabetes can cause a host of other problems as well, including kidney disease, blindness, and nerve damage.


There’s consistent evidence that having a higher amount of body fat is associated with an increased risk for a number of cancers, including breast, colon, endometrial, kidney, liver, and gallbladder.

Osteoarthritis and joint pain

Most people tend to get osteoarthritis because of too much wear and tear on their joints, often due to injuries and overuse. But being obese puts additional pressure on your hips and knees. This wears down the joints faster and raises the risk of developing osteoarthritis. 

Every pound of weight lost can decrease the strain on your knee joints by up to four pounds. This helps to decrease joint pain and slow joint deterioration, which can lead to joint replacements.

Digestive disorders

Obesity is associated with gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD), gallstones and liver damage. Maintaining a healthy weight, along with avoiding common reflux triggers like tobacco, coffee, alcohol and spicy/acidic foods can drastically reduce indigestion and symptoms of GERD.

Sleep apnea

Excess fat around your neck and abdomen can put pressure on your body while lying down, narrowing your airways and causing you to stop breathing periodically while you sleep. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to stroke, diabetes, heart attack or high blood pressure.

The good news is that obesity is preventable and treatable. Talk with your primary care provider if you’re having difficulty losing weight—we want to help keep you healthy at a weight where you feel comfortable.

From routine examinations to managing chronic conditions, Virtua primary and specialty care providers are your partners in care. Call 888-847-8823 to make an appointment.