According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than one-third (35.7%) of US adults are obese.The National Institutes of Health (NIH) defines morbid obesity as:
- Being 100 pounds or more above your ideal body weight
- Or, having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 40 or greater
- Or, having a BMI of 35 or greater and one or more co-morbid conditions
The presence of obesity increases the risk of a number of medical conditions, including cancer. A co-morbid condition is a health condition related to a primary disease such as obesity.
The reasons for obesity are multiple and complex. Despite conventional wisdom, it is not simply a result of overeating. Research has shown that in many cases a significant, underlying cause of morbid obesity is genetic. Studies have demonstrated that once the problem is established, efforts such as dieting and exercise programs have a limited ability to provide effective long-term relief.
Science continues to search for answers. But until the disease is better understood, the control of excess weight is something patients must work at for their entire lives. That is why it is very important to understand that all current medical interventions, including weight loss surgery, should not be considered medical cures. Rather they are attempts to reduce the effects of excessive weight and alleviate the serious physical, emotional and social consequences of the disease.
There are many factors that may contribute to an individual’s obesity, including genetics, lifestyle, environmental, metabolic and eating disorders.
In addition, there are varied health conditions related to morbid obesity, but some of the most common are:
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 Diabetes, a long-term metabolic disorder where the body resists insulin, which is necessary for the body to utilize sugar. Diabetes can lead to heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, amputation of the feet or legs, and nerve damage.
Excess body weight is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, elevated cholesterol, and high blood pressure. These conditions can lead to heart attacks, strokes, heart and kidney damage. Bariatric surgery reduces excess body weight over time, which decreases strain on the heart.
High cholesterol is a disorder of lipids (the fat-like substances in the blood) and can lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. As these lipids build up inside the artery walls, harmful scar tissue and other debris begin thickening and hardening the walls. Long-term, this can lead to heart disease and high blood pressure.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is when breathing suddenly stops because soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses and closes during sleep. Morbid obesity can cause sleep apnea and other respiratory problems that may result in chronic fatigue.
Acid reflux / GERD, also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, is injury to the esophagus caused by chronic exposure to stomach acid. It is a serious disease that can cause esophagitis, Barretts esophagus, and esophageal cancer (adenocarcinoma).
Morbid obesity may put you at a higher risk for several types of cancer, such as colon, breast, and kidney cancer. The National Cancer Institute found people living with morbid obesity are more likely to develop certain cancers than healthy weight people. In addition, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found people living with morbid obesity had significantly higher death rates from cancer than healthy weight people.
There are many reasons people with morbid obesity experience depression. Emotional health goes hand in hand with physical health. Lifestyle improvements and renewed health can help resolve depression. Weight loss, combined with counseling, can be very helpful in improving mental health.
Osteoarthritis and joint pain can lead to loss of mobility. Osteoarthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis. Known as wear-and-tear arthritis, osteoarthritis is a chronic condition in which there is a breakdown of joint cartilage. For anyone who is living with morbid obesity, the excess body weight placed on joints, particularly knees and hips, results in rapid wear and tear, and pain caused by inflammation. Bariatric surgery can reduce much of this weight over a long period of time and can be very effective in treating osteoarthritis.
Stress Urinary Incontinence
Among women, morbid obesity is a risk factor for stress urinary incontinence, or uncontrollable urine loss. A large, heavy abdomen and relaxation of the pelvic muscles due to morbid obesity may cause the valve on the urinary bladder to weaken, leading to leakage of urine with coughing, sneezing, or laughing. Bariatric surgery has been found to improve stress urinary incontinence. Less weight is placed on the bladder, and other physical changes take place to improve this condition.
Female Reproductive Health Disorders
Female reproductive health disorders, which can lead to infertility and sexual dysfunction. Reproductive health can be a concern for women struggling with morbid obesity. Issues such as infertility (the inability or reduced ability to produce children) and menstrual irregularities may occur due to morbid obesity. Fertility issues include possible miscarriage, reduced success with fertility treatments, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Additionally, women living with morbid obesity are more likely to have children with certain birth defects.