Carrying around too much extra weight has long been a risk factor for serious heart health issues like stroke, heart attack, and heart disease, currently the nation’s leading killer, but what you might not know is that the list doesn’t stop there.
“Many people are not aware of just how many health risks are associated with obesity,” says Richard Ing, MD, Medical Director of the Bariatric Center at Bryn Mawr Hospital, Main Line Health. “The truth is that it puts your whole body at risk.”
Among the additional risks that obesity poses for your body? Cancer, for one. Excess weight increases the risk of developing cancer in the colon, breast, prostate, and uterus, among other sites, and makes it more difficult to detect tumors and treat them early on.
Not surprisingly, obesity can also take a toll on your joints. Obese patients have an increased risk of arthritis and joint pain, making it uncomfortable to do every day activities and increasing the likelihood of a joint replacement surgery down the road. Unfortunately for many patients, this joint pain is also a barrier to exercise, which is key to controlling obesity.
Planning for pregnancy? Obesity can be an obstacle in trying to conceive, too. It has been linked to an irregular menstrual cycle and problems during pregnancy, like gestational diabetes, which is characterized by high blood sugar during pregnancy and can occur in any women, regardless of whether or not they have a history of diabetes.
In addition to these health concerns, obesity can also cause respiratory problems, like asthma and sleep apnea. So how can you protect yourself from these issues and get on track to managing your weight? Start from square one, says Dr. Ing.
“For patients who are struggling with obesity, getting healthy can seem like a long and difficult process, and feel defeated before they even start,” he says. “Take it one step at a time. Try a healthier version of your favorite snack or a smaller portion size. Go out for a short walk. Start somewhere rather than not starting at all.”
While small steps are important when you’re starting out, it’s important to have a goal to reach. Challenge yourself with new fitness tasks and discover new and healthier recipes until you’ve reversed and combated bad habits. Although your risk for these health risks lessens with every step you take, it’s important to remember that unless your weight and body mass index (BMI) are at a healthy level for your age, you can still be at risk. To find your healthy target, try our body weight and BMI calculators.
If you continue to struggle with obesity, make sure you schedule regular appointments with your physician to discuss important factors like your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar, which can be indicative of your health.
Losing weight can feel like an uphill battle. If you are struggling with obesity and looking for a long-term solution, the Bariatric Program at Bryn Mawr Hospital can help. Visit our website for upcoming informational sessions, FAQ, and more information on our program.