Obesity is a risk factor for many different diseases. The disadvantages towards health are various because overweight people are threatened by several diseases. In general, if you are overweight your health is relatively worse compared to someone with a normal weight. Obesity is increasing the risk factor in developing various cardiovascular problems and other serious conditions that can be harmful for health. This article lists some of the most common health problems caused by obesity.

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Heart and cardiovascular diseases

One of the biggest problems caused by obesity is the increased risk of coronary heart disease or otherwise called heart disease. Coronary arteries correspond to the heart’s own oxygen supply. When they develop plaque on their inner walls it makes them more narrowed. This restricts the blood flow to the heart muscle which can become starved of oxygen. This could lead to a heart attack or a sudden cardiac death.1

160 000 people die from heart and circulatory disease in the UK thus, the coronary artery disease remains the number one cause of death.2 The good news is that weight loss, healthy diet and exercise can significantly decrease the risk of developing the disease. Your healthy weight can be measured with the help of Body Mass Index (BMI). If you have found weight loss particularly hard, you could talk with your doctor about weight loss medication such as Xenical and its suitability for you. Keep in mind that there are many illegal weight loss pills on the market and thus, choose your treatment together with your doctor.

Other issues caused by obesity are related to high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Especially high LDL (bad cholesterol), low HDL [good cholesterol) and high triglycerides contribute to cardiovascular diseases. In addition, obesity can lift up the blood pressure. If it is too high it can cause further problems. If you have the before mentioned as well as abdominal obesity you might have metabolic syndrome which is a cluster of metabolic disorders. In this case, the risk of cardiovascular disease is greater than any factor alone.3

Type 2 diabetes

Another health problem caused by obesity is type 2 diabetes. The blood sugar level of a person suffering from this condition is too high. Normally, the body transforms food into glucose and carries it into cells. Cells use insulin to convert glucose to energy. However, in type 2 diabetes, the production of insulin in the body is disrupted. In the initial stage, the body produces too much insulin and later not enough. Diabetes can lead to coronary heart disease, kidney disease, cerebrovascular disease, blindness or premature death. Read more about diabetes here. 

The majority of people suffering from type 2 diabetes are overweight according to their BMI which means that the link between obesity and type 2 diabetes is quite strong. People with BMI above 30 are 80 times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. This is not purely because of the weight but where it is stored in the body – viscelar (on the belly and inside the organs) or subcutaneous (beneath the skin). It is the viscelar fat that is causing the condition and harder to shake off thansubcutaneous fats. However, exercising helps and weight loss is recommended. Even losing 10 percent from your weight reduces the risk of diabetes and have major effects on health and well-being.4

Sexual problems

Sexual problems caused by obesity are not a myth but it can really cause a variety of issues in both genders. In fact, morbidly obese people are 25 times more likely to report problems in their sex life than others. As many are certainly aware of, obesity is a risk factor for erectile dysfunction, especially in older age groups. Weight loss is, therefore, a very pursuable option. In women, overweight can cause menstrual problems, such as menstrual irregularities, and even infertility. In addition, obesity can cause psychological issues regarding body image and performance anxiety.5


Obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK with more than 1 in 20 cancer cases are caused by it. The risk is higher the more weight a person gains and the longer they are overweight for. However, the positive news is that small lifestyle changes can have a big difference on the outcome.6

The cancers caused by obesity can include gallbladder, kidney, liver, prostate, colon and endometrial cancers. In addition, obesity in older women increases the risk of breast cancer.

Respiratory problems

Breathing problems are more common in people who are overweight. One common respiratory disorder is sleep apnea when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. The people with this condition stop breathing repeatedly during a night.7 Being overweight increases the risk to contract this disorder because of possible fat in the neck. Also risk for a sudden respiratory distress syndrome increases. This happens when an overweight person cannot breathe properly, causing too much carbon dioxide to enter the bloodstream and not enough oxygen. This can lead to serious health problems and even death.

Joint disorders

Extra weight can be exhausting for joints that are under constant pressure. It can be extremely demanding for the’ weight bearing joints’ such as knees, hips and lower back that can’t necessarily handle so much weight.8

The most common joint disorders affected by obesity are:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

Despite this, the joint disorders are avoidable by exercising and trying to lose the extra weight.

Mental health

Several studies have found that a disproportionate number of patients with mental illness are obese compared to the general population. Often people with extra weight might obtain a poorer self-image and feel shame over their body. Therefore, obesity can oppose as a risk factor for some mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. In some cases, it can lead to eating disorders such as binge eating disorder (BID).9


  1. Coronary Artery Disease – WebMD
  2. Facts – Heart UK
  3. Metabolic Syndrome – Heart
  4. Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity – Diabetes Self Management
  5. Sexual Problems and Obesity – WebMD
  6. Can Obesity Cause Cancer – Cancer Research UK
  7. Sleep Apnea – WebMD
  8. Weight and Joint Disease – OAC
  9. Obesity and Mental Health – Mental Help