According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 40 percent of the United States population is now considered obese, while an additional 34 percent are considered overweight. In Canada, 25 percent of the population is classified as obese and 41 percent are overweight. These figures illustrate a potentially grave future for Canadians and Americans alike, as the consequences of being overweight or obese include diabetes, heart disease and even death.
Obesity can have a very real and lasting impact on individuals and future generations. Here are some health effects that can be the result of carrying around too much weight.
The National Cancer Institute says each year thousands of new cases of cancer in men and women can be linked to obesity. Some researchers feel that excess fat cells increase hormonal activity, which can lead to tumor growth.
High blood pressure
Overweight or obese people have a greater chance of developing high blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries while the heart pumps blood. High blood pressure can weaken the heart over time, causing it to work less efficiently, and may lead to aneurysm, heart failure or stroke.
As with cancer, the potential correlation between obesity and infertility requires further study. But there is some evidence that points to obesity as a contributing factor to infertility. Overweight women tend to have a harder time getting pregnant, and some researchers feel that is because fatty tissue may cause hormonal changes that impact conception.
Type 2 diabetes
When a person has type 2 diabetes, his or her body cannot use insulin properly. Over time, the body cannot make enough insulin to regulate blood sugar level. About 80 to 90 percent of people who are obese also have type 2 diabetes, and it's believed that being overweight places extra stress on the body's ability to maintain proper glucose levels in the blood, creating a greater need for insulin. This can create a vicious cycle, as insulin use itself can lead to weight gain.
Overweight individuals frequently develop pain in the joints of their knees, hips and lower backs. The condition occurs as tissue that protects the joints wears away. Extra weight also can wreak havoc on the feet that are forced to bear those extra pounds.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that overweight women are at a greater risk of having a preterm delivery. Too much fat can weaken uterine and cervical membranes.
Obese and overweight people can have problems sleeping, says the American Sleep Foundation. Obesity can be linked to sleep apnea, a condition in which a person gasps for air or momentarily stops breathing while asleep. This condition can result in frequent interruptions in sleep and an overall poor quality of sleep.
Obesity and overweight can contribute to many health problems, some of which may come as a surprise to men and women who are carrying extra weight.