ObesityComplications of Obesity

Let’s Talk About the Complications of Obesity

This disease comes with a host of other medical conditions, including sleep apnea and heart disease. But even losing 10 percent of body weight can mean a far healthier future.

    Our Pro PanelComplications of Obesity

    We went to the nation’s top obesity experts to bring you the most up-to-date information possible.

    Osama Hamdy, M.D., Ph.D. headshot.

    Osama Hamdy, M.D., Ph.D.Medical Director, Associate Professor of Medicine

    Joslin Obesity Clinical Program, Harvard Medical School
    Boston, MA
    Robert Eckel, M.D. headshot.

    Robert Eckel, M.D.Past President and Volunteer Medical Expert, Professor Emeritus

    American Heart Association, University of Colorado School of Medicine
    Aurora, CO
    Stephen Cook, M.D., MPH headshot.

    Stephen Cook, M.D., MPHAssociate Professor of Pediatrics and Internal Medicine

    University of Rochester Medical Center
    Rochester, NY

    Frequently Asked QuestionsComplications of Obesity

    What are the signs and symptoms of obesity?

    Excess body fat is one of the most visible symptoms of obesity. A person with obesity might also experience shortness of breath when being physically active and joint pain in the hips, knees, and ankles (from carrying the excess weight). In terms of longer-term health consequences, people with obesity are at increased risk for heart-related conditions, type 2 diabetes, cancer, sleep apnea, depression, infertility, and more.

    How does obesity hurt your heart?

    When the body is tasked with carrying around excess amounts of weight, it strains the heart, forcing it to work harder to send blood throughout the body. This can result in high blood pressure, a frequent cause of heart attacks. The system-wide inflammation caused by obesity also causes blood vessels to become stiffer than they should be, which increases blood pressure. Other heart-related fallout from obesity includes an increased risk of heart disease, as waxy plaque builds up on the inner walls of blood vessels of the heart, interfering with cardiac blood flow.

    As body fat accumulates, it accumulates everywhere, including in the tongue and neck. This can block the flow of air in and out, particularly as a person sleeps. In individuals with sleep apnea, breathing repeatedly stops and starts while asleep, as much as hundreds of times a night. Ramifications can include daytime drowsiness, high blood pressure, increased risk of heart attack and stroke, erectile dysfunction (in men), depression, and more.

    What happens if obesity is left untreated?

    Individuals with obesity are at increased risk for various heart-related conditions, Type 2 diabetes, cancer, sleep apnea, depression, infertility, and more. People with obesity also tend to die earlier than their healthy weight counterparts.

    Link with Chronic Disease: J. Transl. Med. (2019). “Why Primary Obesity is a Disease?”

    Leslie Goldman

    Leslie Goldman


    Leslie Goldman is a health and wellness writer who regularly contributes feature stories and essays to various publications.