7 Common Obesity-Related Illnesses

by Erica Sanderson Editor

Obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 30. The CDC reports an estimated one-third of American adults are obese. Being obese affects more than just weight. Here’s how this condition can lead to other diseases.

Type 2 diabetes

Obesity is the number one risk factor for diabetes. It can result in metabolic changes because as the body stores more fat cells, they swell and produce chemicals that affect your metabolic rate. A person can become insulin resistant—meaning the insulin produced by the pancreas loses its influence—leading to full-blown diabetes.

High cholesterol & stroke

Since most obese people don’t follow a healthy diet or exercise regimen, they often consume too much LDL triglycerides, or bad fat, that trigger high cholesterol levels. Plaque can also build up in the arteries, increasing the risk of stroke and heart disease.


Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is another risk factor of obesity. Hormone levels that help regulate blood volume (and, thus, pressure) can change with excess weight. Hearts of obese people also pump harder to ensure proper circulation throughout the body.


When cartilage deteriorates around the joints, it can cause a degenerative joint disease known as osteoarthritis. Obesity forces the joints to carry a great amount of weight that cause wear and tear. This is a very painful disease that decreases mobility and is accompanied by stiffness and aches.

Sleep apnea

This life-threatening complication occurs when breathing temporarily stops during sleep. Enlarged tonsils, tongue, and neck fat can apply pressure on the airways in the throat, obstructing the movement of oxygen. Treatment involves wearing a CPAP machine during bedtime.


High cholesterol accumulates in bile and forms gallstones. A diet high in calories and refined carbohydrates, and metabolic syndromes (like diabetes) also contributes to gallstone formations. These factors are tied closely with obesity, which is why many obese people experience gallstones.

Fatty liver disease

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) forms as a result of fat buildup in the liver. These fat deposits can damage the liver and make it harder to filter toxins from the body. It can eventually lead to liver failure. High lipid levels, such as cholesterol and blood pressure, increase the risk of developing NAFLD.

Erica Sanderson
Meet Our Writer
Erica Sanderson

Erica Sanderson is a former content producer and editor for HealthCentral. Living with a chronic disorder that affects the lungs and instestine, Erica focused on covering digestive health and respiratory health. Topics included COPD, asthma, acid reflux, managing symptoms and medication.