What is morbid obesity? Morbid obesity, also called clinically severe obesity, means higher risk for numerous illnesses. Morbid obesity causes damage to the body and adversely affects normal bodily functions, leading to life-threatening diseases. Obesity health risks (co-morbidities) include type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides, coronary artery disease (CAD), stroke, and sleep apnea, among other conditions.
There has been an increase in obesity-related medical problems; in particular, diabetes has become the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimating in 2008 that fifty-seven million adults aged twenty and older were pre-diabetic, 23.6 million diabetic, with 90-95% of the latter being type 2-diabetic.
Obesity has also been shown to increase the prevalence of complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Babies born to obese women are almost three times as likely to die within one month of birth and almost twice as likely to be stillborn than babies born to women of normal weight.
Obesity has been cited as a contributing factor to approximately 100,000-400,000 deaths in the United States per year and has increased health care use and expenditures, costing society an estimated $117 billion in direct (preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services related to weight) and indirect (absenteeism, loss of future earnings due to premature death) costs.
These costs exceed healthcare costs associated with smoking or problem drinking.
Taxpayers picked up about half the $147 billion tab in 2008 through Medicare and Medicaid.
Obesity is uncontrovertibly associated with increased mortality. On any day, the morbidly obese patient suffers an estimated relative risk of mortality which is 2 to 8 times that of the normal-weighted person.
Many diseases are caused by or exacerbated by morbid obesity. If you lose weight, your risk for these conditions is reduced.
Cancer — risk of developing certain types of cancers (such as breast, colon, uterus, kidney and esophagus) is greater among morbidly obese individuals than among individuals of healthy weight. The causes for the increased cancer risk among obese individuals may differ from one cancer to another. Possible causes include changes in insulin or sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone and androgens).
Diabetes — More than 80% of people diagnosed with diabetes are overweight at the time of the diagnosis. One study has noted that men and women who have a body mass index (BMI) over 35 are approximately 20 times more likely to develop diabetes over a 10-year period than people with a normal weight. Risk of type 2 diabetes increases as BMI increases.
Gallbladder disease — Women who are obese have twice the risk of developing gallstones as women of normal weight, and women who are extremely obese (a BMI over 45) have 7 times the risk.
Heartburn / GERD / digestive problems — Symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) are more common in people who are obese than in people of normal weight.
Heart disease — Many things affect your risk of heart disease – as blood cholesterol rises, so does risk of coronary heart disease. When other risk factors (such as high blood pressure and tobacco smoke) are present, this risk increases even more. People who have excess body fat – especially if a lot of it is at the waist – are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke even if they have no other risk factors. Excess weight increases the heart's work. It also raises blood pressure and blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) — High blood pressure is twice as common in obese adults. Excess weight can lead to high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. When high blood pressure exists with obesity, smoking, high blood cholesterol levels or diabetes, the risk of heart attack or stroke increases several times.
High cholesterol — Obesity is associated with high triglycerides and decreased HDL (good) cholesterol.
Osteoarthritis & rheumatoid arthritis — Extra weight puts more stress on the joints than normal, especially in the legs and lower back. For every 2 pound increase in weight, your risk of developing arthritis increases 9-13%.
Depression — Morbidly obese individuals are more likely than others to become depressed, and people who have depression are more likely to become obese, according to a study in the March 2008 issue of Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice.
Respiratory problems, sleep apnea, asthma — 1-4% of the general population has respiratory problems while sleeping. 24% of overweight men and 9% of overweight women have breathing problems while sleeping. People who are overweight/obese are more likely to have sleep apnea; obesity is also associated with a higher prevalence of asthma. Those with sleep apnea have a greater risk of high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, and stroke.
Stroke — Many of the causes of stroke are directly or indirectly related to obesity and morbid obesity, including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol, heart disease.
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