What are the Most Common Complications of Obesity?

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  • Written By: Steve R.
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 06 October 2019
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Obesity is a disease that affects more than 70 million Americans and leads to a host of health complications, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea and even death. The condition is a result of an overabundance of fatty tissues. Typically, a man with a waist that surpasses 40 inches or a woman with a waist of 35 inches or more is at risk for obesity.

When the body has excess fatty tissues, it will in turn require extra oxygen and nutrients. This results in a greater amount of blood circulating throughout the body. As the heart works harder to pump more blood, it causes a strain on the artery walls, which results in higher blood pressure.

As the arteries harden, complications of obesity can lead to strokes and coronary disease. An overabundance of fatty acids accumulating in the arteries leading to the brain can result in clotting. This clotting obstructs the flow of blood to brain, making a person more apt to suffer from a stroke. The buildup of fatty tissue in the arteries also can narrow the flow of blood to the heart, causing angina or even a heart attack.


Diabetes is one of the most common complications of obesity, as approximately 90 percent of the cases of type 2 diabetes involve people who are overweight. As an individual gains extra pounds, he becomes resistant to insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar. Insulin is needed to keep the body’s sugar level at a healthy rate. If the amount of sugar level spikes, diabetes occurs.

Complications of obesity also include respiratory problems. An individual who is obese has extra weight on his chest wall, which presses on the lungs, making it more difficult for the person to breathe. A large neck and narrow passageways result in an obstruction in the upper airway during sleep. This condition, called sleep apnea, causes a person to stop breathing numerous times at night, which gradually puts a strain on a person’s heart. This restless sleep can result in fatigue during the day.

In addition to medical issues, an individual who is obese may suffer from social and psychological problems. Adults who are obese can experience depression, anxiety, and isolation, which may lead to poor self-esteem. School-age children who are obese may be taunted and ridiculed, and adults might experience discrimination in the work place. Obese individuals may be stigmatized as being sluggish or weak. Because of a fear of negative stereotypes, an obese individual may be less willing to seek out health care.


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