The risks of being overweight

Those with very high Body Mass Index (BMI) have a higher mortality rate. BMI is a simple measure of the ratio of weight to the height of an individual.

A better measurement of over-weightedness is to investigate body composition using fat calipers, electrical impedance measures or water displacement methods. These methods not only tell you if you are overweight, but also if you are over-fat. It could be that you just are very muscular.

Hypertension (high blood pressure) and high levels of blood cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fats) are usually part of being overweight (actually over-fat) and can lead to heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular issues. Being overweight also leads to angina — heart pain caused by insufficient oxygen supply to the heart.

Angina is not death of heart tissue but indicates that the heart is under stress. The pain goes away when activity is decreased whereas with a heart attack, the pain does not subside when activity is reduced and there is actual death of heart tissue.

Overweight people are up to six times more likely to develop hypertension because the more you weigh, the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As the volume of blood increases, so does the pressure on the arterial walls and in the kidneys.

Sleep apnea is a serious condition that is shown to be associated with being too heavy.

Sleep apnea causes individuals to stop breathing for short periods of time during sleep and to snore heavily. This condition can lead to heart failure because the blood pressure spikes during these episodes and, of course, causes drowsiness and ineffectiveness during the day because the sleep is not restful.

Overweight people are twice as likely to develop Type II diabetes — a major cause of early death, heart disease, kidney problems, stroke and blindness.  

Several types of cancer are also associated with being too fat. In women, cancer of the uterus, gallbladder, cervix, ovary, breast and colon are correlated to having too much body fat.

In men, the connected cancers are colon, rectal and prostate. It may be that these cancers are related to a high-fat, high-calorie diet as well as retaining extra body weight.  

Gallbladder disease and gallstones are more common in overweight people, and rapid uncontrolled weight loss can increase the chances of developing gallstones.

Fatty liver disease is linked to higher-than-healthy blood glucose levels, and damages the liver itself.

People who have fatty liver disease should reduce weight, avoid alcohol and work to get their blood glucose levels to a healthy range.

Extra weight also puts a greater strain on the weight-bearing joints of the body. The extra weight increases the risk for osteoarthritis because in the weight bearing joints — such as the knees, back and hips — cartilage is worn away from the added friction.      

This is the time for New Year’s resolutions. For the goodness of your health, resolve to lose weight if you are overweight because of too much fat.

You have your health to gain and a better quality of life to live!

• Jane Riley, M.S., B.A., C.P.T., Certified Nutritional Adviser, can be reached at, 212-1451 or


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