Tips for Thought

Obesity is becoming an increasing concern across the United States. As of 2022, at least every state in the United States has an obesity rate of over 20%. While adults between the ages of 40 and 59 are likely to be obese, nearly 20% of children between the ages of 2 to 19 are obese as well. With these figures, it’s clear that people are struggling with their weight and need immediate change.

How Obesity Can Affect the Economy:

Obesity doesn’t only have health consequences. In the CDC website, obesity-related issues have a significant economic impact on the country’s healthcare system.

In 2019, obesity-related treatments were estimated to be around $173 billion, while obesity-related absenteeism has cost businesses around $3.38 billion to $6.38 billion.

In addition to the economy, obesity can also affect the country’s military readiness. Considering that 1 in 3 adults aged 17–24 was too heavy to serve in the military, this can affect the country’s overall armed forces.

In addition, at least 19% of active-duty members had obesity in 2020, an increase from 16% in 2015. This trend can severely affect the nation’s overall security if it continues.

Effects of Obesity On Health:

Obesity’s most significant impact is usually on the person’s physical and mental health.

Excess weight and fat can have devastating effects on nearly every system in the body, including the following:

A. The Nervous System

The nervous system coordinates a person’s actions and sensory information. Obesity can affect a person’s central nervous system by altering the brain’s hippocampal structure and function. As for the peripheral nervous system, excess weight can change the balance between sympathetic-parasympathetic activity, i.e., your “flight-or-fight” and “rest and digest” responses.

Additionally, obesity increases a person’s risk of developing stroke, a severe condition with a blockage or interruption of blood supply to the brain.

B. The Respiratory System

Excess fat around the neck can inhibit a person’s airway, making it difficult for a person to breathe properly. Obese individuals are also prone to sleep apnea, in which breathing may stop for a few moments before it returns.

Sleep apnea is dangerous because it increases pressure in the blood vessels around your heart. This effect can lead to strain which ultimately results in damage.

C. The Digestive System

Obesity can lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or heartburn. This condition occurs when stomach acid or intestinal secretions affect your esophagus.

Aside from GERD, obese people are also at risk for developing gallstones, resulting in the build-up and hardening of excess bile in the gallbladder.

Obesity also results in excess fat around the liver, leading to liver damage, scar tissue, and possible liver failure.

D. The Cardiovascular System

The heart and its system must work harder to pump blood around the body due to excess weight. This condition is called hypertension which is the leading cause of stroke.

High blood pressure is also dangerous because it can affect the blood vessels that carry blood to the heart and other areas of the body, resulting in the blood vessels hardening or developing plaque which affects circulation.

E. The Endocrine System

Excess obesity can make a person susceptible to developing Type 2 diabetes. This condition happens because obesity can cause the body’s cells to be resistant to insulin. Insulin is the hormone that transports sugar from your blood to your cells for energy use. Type 2 diabetes can lead to other health issues like heart and kidney disease, nerve damage, and blurred vision.

F. The Reproductive System

Women who want to start a family may find it hard to conceive because of the excess fat around the body. Obese women have higher leptin levels, which are produced in fatty tissue. Extra leptin can affect hormonal balance leading to reduced fertility. Excess fat also affects a woman’s menstrual cycle, making a woman experience irregular periods.

G. The Skeletal and Muscular Systems

Obesity deteriorates bone density and muscle mass. This condition, called “osteosarcopenic obesity,” makes a person more prone to fractures and injury.

Excess weight also affects the joint, increasing the pressure on these mechanisms, which leads to pain and stiffness.

H. The Integumentary System

Excess fat can have adverse effects on your skin. Obese people can develop rashes between fat folds, discoloration, and skin thickening in the folds and creases around the body. The latter effect may be linked to Type 2 diabetes.

Aside from physical effects, obesity-related issues can also harm your mental health. Some instances of how excess weight can affect your mind include:

  • Increased risk of depression and anxiety;
  • Increased risk of anxiety; and
  • Low self-esteem

However, it’s also important to note that while obesity is becoming common, there is still a stigma toward bigger and heavier people than the norm. This stigma creates adverse treatment from others, further affecting the person’s mental health.

How Can We Reduce Obesity-Related Risks?

Healthy and sustainable weight loss is the best solution to lowering one’s chances of developing obesity-related issues.

An effective weight loss plan should include the following:

  • A healthy diet.
  • An effective exercise program.
  • A coping mechanism that helps a person deal with issues that possibly lead them to become obese in the first place.

The reason why the latter is so important is that there are people who tend to find eating or snacking as a coping mechanism. As a result, people with these compulsions may find it difficult to lose weight because they can’t find any other outlet to cope.

However, people can expect more sustainable weight loss by finding the cause of this compulsion and changing one’s coping mechanisms.

Weight loss is not easy. Aside from establishing an effective weight loss program, we can help others feel more confident in their weight loss plan by being more understanding and compassionate to their circumstances. We should also remember that obesity is not a moral failure and should not be treated as such.

While a few people wish to remain fat, we cannot ignore the consequences of excess fat on a person’s health and the nation’s economy.

If you’re currently struggling with your weight and need more help, contact your doctor for some other weight loss solutions that are sustainable and low-risk.