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5 Complications of Obesity

Friday 21 May 2021
Health & Wellness
5 minute(s) read

Table of Contents

I. Heart Problems

II. Osteoarthritis

III. Sleep Apnea

IV. Fatty Liver Disease

V. Stroke

Living with obesity can have a huge impact on a person’s quality of life. If you have a high ratio of body fat to muscle, you may be putting strain on your bones and internal organs. Over time, this strain can cause a myriad of health disorders that can land you in the hospital.

Treating obesity is a multi-faceted process and requires many sustainable lifestyle changes. Healthy diet choices, regular exercise, and a support team are helpful tools for getting your weight under control. If eligible, your doctor may prescribe medications like Xenical (orlistat) to help stop fat absorption from food. It is essential to be aware of the complications of obesity, so read on to learn more. [1] 

Heart Problems

The health of the heart is essential to the health of the entire body. If you are overweight, you may put too much strain on your heart and cause the following heart issues:

High blood pressure: If you have more tissue on your body, blood vessels have to supply more blood to these areas of the body. Over time, this can cause your blood pressure to rise (hypertension). High blood pressure is a silent condition but incredibly dangerous if left untreated. [2]

a man getting his heart tested

Heart disease: If you live with high blood pressure caused by obesity, you are at an increased risk of experiencing a heart attack or heart disease. Coronary heart disease occurs when the arteries around the heart become narrowed or blocked due to plaque buildup. Plaque is made of lipids that get caught in arteries due to an unhealthy diet. When the arteries get blocked, heart disease can occur. [3]


Osteoarthritis is also known as wear and tear arthritis. It is the most common arthritis, and the rates are currently higher than ever. Many researchers believe this spike in osteoarthritis cases is in relation to the growing rate of obesity. Osteoarthritis is normally found in older adults who have spent decades putting pressure on their joints. But if you are obese, you may have the joints of an older adult in your twenties or thirties.

The Arthritis Foundation cites that being only 10 pounds overweight puts an extra 15 to 50 pounds of pressure on your knees. That extra pressure causes the cartilage in your knees to wear down over time, causing the knee bones to grind against each other. Extra pounds are hard on the joints and if you have joint misalignment, you may be unable to walk long distances.

Along with joint pressure from weight, obese people are at a greater risk of joint inflammation, which contributes to the development of osteoarthritis. Fat cells can produce proteins that are released into the body and cause inflammation in the knees, hips, and wrists. [4]

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a fairly common disorder characterized by disrupted breathing while you sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type and is caused by a narrow or blocked upper airway. With obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), normal breathing can feel like breathing through a straw. These patients can have up to 30 disruptions a night.

a woman lying face down on bed

Researchers have found that excess weight and obesity are major contributing factors to the development of OSA. If you are carrying extra weight on your body, it can create fat deposits in a person’s neck, known as pharyngeal fat. This fat can block a person’s airway during sleep when the airway is relaxed.

The same thing can occur to the lungs if you are holding extra weight in your abdomen. Fat can press down on your lungs, reducing their capacity and diminishing airflow. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, you may require a CPAP machine to make sure your breathing remains constant during sleep. [5]

Fatty Liver Disease

You may associate liver disease with alcoholism or substance abuse, but it can also occur in obese individuals. This is known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which occurs when excess fat builds up in the liver, even with little to no alcohol consumption.

Scientists do not know why fat accumulates in the liver, but it is more common if you are obese, insulin-resistant, or possess high-fat levels in the blood. The excess fat may also act as a toxin to liver cells and cause inflammation, known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Symptoms of fatty liver disease often include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain or discomfort in the upper right abdomen
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

If you are obese and develop this condition, you are at risk for cirrhosis. Cirrhosis occurs when the liver tries to decrease inflammation by producing areas of scarring, which can eventually take up large parts of the liver. [6]

fatty bacon cooking in a pan


A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted or reduced, depriving it of essential oxygen and nutrients. Over 795,000 Americans experience a stroke every single year. More than 130,000 of those patients die each year from a stroke, and those numbers are rising.

If you survive a stroke, you may be permanently disabled or at risk of suffering another stroke in the future. Obesity complications and stroke risk factors overlap significantly, putting millions of obese Americans at risk for a stroke or disability. High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for stroke, which is also a common symptom of obesity.

Excess fatty tissue on the body makes a person more susceptible to a stroke or transient ischemic attack (a “mini” stroke) and other vascular problems. The inflammation caused by excess fat contributes to blood flow problems and an increased risk of blockage. [7]

These complications are serious medical issues that should be avoided at all costs. Eating healthy and getting the proper exercise can reduce your risk of obesity and these dangerous complications. Talk to your doctor about a weight-loss treatment plan and to determine if weight loss medications like Xenical are right for you.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.