Obesity has become one of the major problems of modern society in the United States and other developed countries. According to Ogden et al., “more than one-third of adults and 17% of youth in the United States were obese in 2011–2014”, and these results are only getting worse each year (5). Overweight not only influences the appearance but also fatally affects the physical health of people. The range of diseases associated with obesity is diverse.
Poor health, mood swings, physical weakness, and illness at risk of escalating into chronic, are constant companions of overweight people. This paper aims to highlight and describe the devastating health effects of obesity, such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory disorders, diabetes, hormonal disorders, osteoarthritis, male dysfunction, infertility, cancer, and psychological disorder.
Cardiovascular diseases, such as hypertension, heart failure, coronary heart disease, and stroke, are in the first place among the health consequences of obesity. According to GBD 2015 Obesity Collaborators, obesity is “a risk factor for an expanding set of chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes” (22). If the weight exceeds the norm by more than 10%, the probability of stroke and other heart diseases begins to increase (Ogden et al. 2).
Blood pressure and cholesterol level rise, glucose accumulates as cells become unable to break it down. With excess weight, the load on the heart is increased even at rest. With an increase in stretching of the heart muscle, the heart rate intensifies, which leads to an increase in the load on the vessels. The higher the mass of the human body, the more blood the heart has to pump. Therefore, patients with obesity are more likely to be hypertensive than ones who are not overweight, and weight gain is associated with increased blood pressure.
The increase in body weight leads to a rise in the body’s needs for nutrients and oxygen, which provide the heart work. In obesity, the heart experiences a higher load by increasing the frequency of contractions and the volume of blood that is pumped in one heartbeat. With further increase in body weight, the heart is covered with a fat shell; fat is deposited in the layers of the myocardium, complicating its contraction function.
Changes in the myocardium leading to the development of heart failure. Depending on the degree of increase in body weight, the size of the heart increases proportionally. This increase may be from one and a half to two times the norm. Frequent complaints of obese people are shortness of breath during exercise, reduced productivity, short-term heart pain, and increased blood pressure. Many of the phenomena associated with obesity of the heart as a consequence of general obesity are reversible: as the patient gets rid of excess weight, the functions of the cardiovascular system also return to normal.
The negative impact of obesity on the respiratory system is because patients experience respiratory and heart failure if they suffer from this pathology. Moreover, as practice shows, the higher the degrees of obesity, the harder the respiratory disorders get (Furukawa et al. 1759). These disorders appear largely because of reduced mobility of the chest due to the presence of fat deposits on it. The deposition of fat on the anterior abdominal wall has maximum effects on individuals with diaphragmatic breathing.
This type of breath is common in men. Central obesity, in which fat deposits are formed on the stomach, also is suffered mostly by men. Therefore, respiratory disorders associated with obesity are more pronounced in the cases with male patients. Another factor of respiratory failure is that an increase in intra-abdominal pressure in obesity leads to a relatively high standing diaphragm, which squeezes the lungs.
This leads to hypoventilation (insufficient ventilation) of the lungs. Respiratory movements become superficial, and to ensure adequate gas exchange, a person needs to breathe more often. As a result, the energy cost of breathing increases – the body needs to spend more energy on making respiratory movements to provide tissues with oxygen. Hypoventilation is complicated by hypoxia – lack of oxygen in the muscles. Now the pressure is on the heart.
After all, to eliminate hypoxia and saturate the tissue with oxygen, it needs to contract more and more often. Structural changes in lung tissue in combination with various infectious and inflammatory processes over time lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, including chronic obstructive bronchitis and emphysema (Furukawa et al. 1760). There is also a relatively high incidence of bronchial asthma among obese patients.
Diabetes mellitus type II and obesity are interrelated pathological processes. Most patients who are diagnosed with diabetes and are overweight suffer a violation of resistance to carbohydrates. Conversely, most patients with diabetes are obese. Studies show that obesity and type II diabetes have genetic causes (Wong et al. 446). This is because such people have inherited from their parents’ genes that contribute to the accumulation of fat. The body of people prone to obesity stores large amounts of carbohydrates when they are abundant. Thus, the amount of glucose in the blood increases simultaneously.
Also, the higher the degree of obesity, the higher the resistance of the body’s cells to insulin. Thus, the pancreas produces more of it. A large amount of insulin eventually leads to the fact that the body accumulates even more fat (Wong et al. 447). Adverse genes also cause a deficiency of the hormone serotonin in the blood (Ogden et al. 3). This condition leads to a chronic feeling of depression, longing, and hunger. Only the use of carbohydrates temporarily relieves the patient from such a state. Insulin sensitivity is reduced, which increases the risk of diabetes.
The cause of endocrine obesity is various dysfunctions of endocrine glands, accompanied by insufficient or excessive synthesis of certain hormones. Violation of metabolism leads to an increase in the patient’s weight by 20% or more relative to the average values due to adipose tissue (Furukawa et al. 1755). The level of insulin in the blood of the patient produced by the pancreas significantly increases, the exchange of thyroid hormones is disturbed.
Sometimes there is an increase in muscle mass. Fat is not deposited, and muscle tissue continues to rise (male figure in women). This may be the result of increased production of male sex hormones, mainly testosterone. The accumulation of fat in men occurs with a lack of this hormone.
In recent decades, scientists and clinicians have begun to consider various metabolic disorders and diseases associated with obesity comprehensively. As a result, they concluded that these pathologies have common manifestations and combined them into the concept of «metabolic syndrome.» According to Furukawa et al., “obesity is a principal causative factor in the development of metabolic syndrome” (1758). This phenomenon can be characterized as a set of changes in the body, leading to a profound metabolic disorder. The reasons are physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, and sedentary lifestyle.
Overweight is a factor contributing to the very rapid degeneration of the cartilage of the joints and the development of arthritis. Among the diseases caused by overweight, osteoarthritis is one of the most frequent, especially often affecting the hip, knee, and ankle joints. The probability of developing this severe pathology increases with each extra pound. The first signs of it usually appear at the age of 50 (Wong et al. 445).
Arthritis develops more often in women. This is a chronic disease that does not lead to death but steadily progresses over the years, ending with the disability of the patient. According to Wong et al., “each additional year lived with obesity added a further 3% to the risk of disability” (447). It is worth mentioning that arthritis is no longer an exclusively age-related problem: the urban lifestyle has led to the disease and its consequences affecting young people.
In arthritis, an irreversible degeneration of the cartilaginous tissue of the joints and their internal membranes occurs, which causes pain in the movements and stiffness of the joints. With exacerbations or a long progression of a disease, pain can disturb the patient even at rest. Overweight and pathology of the musculoskeletal system are closely related. Thus, the joints of the lower limbs and spine in obese people experience a much higher load than in people with healthy body weight.
Excess weight and potency are incompatible. The psychological and physiological well-being of men directly affects the regularity of sex and erection. Lipid content increases in the process of weight gain, whereby the blood becomes viscous. It does not go well to the system of the pelvic organs, which leads to erectile dysfunction (Godfrey et al. 57). The relationship between potency and erection is that adipose tissue is part of the endocrine system, where the process of synthesis and metabolism of hormones goes. In overweight men, practically no testosterone production occurs, and more leptin is produced. Obesity causes blockage of blood vessels (Godfrey et al. 59).
This entails shortness of breath, high blood pressure, and many other diseases. There is a failure in the blood circulation, so the supply of blood to the penis is disrupted. Arterial blood does not come to the head of the penis due to the reduction of its inflow. This leads to dysfunction, which can eventually lead to problems with conception and seriously impair the quality of life.
Infertility and Other Maternal Consequences
In today’s environment, infertility in women can cause a variety of factors, and with a decrease in physical activity and the consumption of more unhealthy food, obesity has been added to this list. Excessive fat deposits have a hugely negative impact on metabolic processes in the human body, which leads to failures of the reproductive system. An overweight woman may experience menstrual disorders. According to Poston et al., women with obesity are more likely to have “pregnancy loss and have increased the risk of congenital fetal malformations, shoulder dystocia, spontaneous and medically indicated premature birth, and stillbirth” (1031).
Obesity can cause some complications during pregnancy, such as blood clots, diabetes in pregnant women, emboli, and genital tract infections (Poston et al. 1033). In most cases, women who are obese need a cesarean section, as overweight can cause unexpected complications during childbirth. Also, weight problems can cause heavy bleeding after delivery and endometriosis. Obesity is almost a leader in the statistics of miscarriages and subsequent infertility after an unsuccessful pregnancy.
In addition to the negative impact of obesity on the health, conception, and delivery of the mother, it can seriously affect the health of the child. According to Godfrey et al., “observational studies provide evidence for effects of maternal obesity on her offspring’s risks of obesity, coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and asthma” (58). If the expectant mother does not monitor the body mass index, the number of physical activities, and nutrition, her inattention can lead to infertility or the birth of a child with congenital diseases.
Obesity itself does not cause cancer, but it has a significant effect along with other factors. Experts believe that obesity is associated with about 25-30% of cases of colon cancer, breast cancer (in postmenopausal women), uterine cancer (endometrial cancer), kidney cancer, esophagus, gallbladder, ovaries, and pancreas (Poston et al. 1029). One of the most common types of cancer that occurs in obese people is breast cancer in women.
According to Neuhouser et al., “obesity is associated with a dose-response increased postmenopausal breast cancer risk” (617). Before menopause, the effect of obesity on the risk of breast cancer is minimal. In postmenopausal women, this effect increases significantly. It is known that adipose tissue is a source of estrogen synthesis, and the more of this fatty tissue, the more estrogen in the body. It matters in which age obesity emerged, so the most dangerous regarding the risk of breast cancer is obesity, which occurred in adolescence.
Excess weight not only affects the appearance of cancer but also exacerbates its symptoms and consequences. Obesity is associated with approximately 3.2% of all cancers (Neuhouser et al. 618). This is partly because overweight people are reluctant to go to doctors – either because they are ashamed of their appearance or because of the difficulties of movement. In overweight people, it is usually much more difficult to detect cancer because their fat layer is too thick. Treatment of cancer in obese people is also associated with significant problems, as the fat layer absorbs chemotherapy drugs.
Overweight has become the plague of the 21st century. With the emergence of this problem, all diseases previously considered to be a lot of the elderly and infirm, migrated into the daily lives of millions of people, regardless of age. In addition to psychological discomfort and difficulties with social adaptation, a person suffering from obesity has to pay a lot of money for the treatment of diseases which become more disturbing with aging.
That is why the problem is more accessible to prevent than to deal with it throughout life. Even if a person does not have a visible tendency to obesity, it is necessary to maintain harmony in the body with regular exercise, plenty of clean water, and a healthy diet. However, it must be remembered that weight loss and weight maintenance need a balance: both dystrophy and obesity are diseases that entail even more problems and even shorter life expectancy.
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Godfrey, Keith M., et al. “Influence of Maternal Obesity on the Long-Term Health of Offspring.” The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, vol. 5, no. 1, 2017, pp. 53-64.
Neuhouser, Marian L., et al. “Overweight, Obesity, and Postmenopausal Invasive Breast Cancer Risk: A Secondary Analysis of the Women’s Health Initiative Randomized Clinical Trials.” JAMA Oncology, vol. 1, no. 5, 2015, pp. 611-621.
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