Be aware of the co-morbidities of obesity

It is estimated that 40 million Americans are overweight, and 11.5 million are morbidly obese. More than 25 percent of Americans are obese. Our state is ranked No. 4 in the country, with more than 30 percent of Tennesseans considered obese. And on top of our obesity problem comes a plethora of other health problems.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure of body fat, based on the height and weight of an adult man or woman. Once calculated, normal BMI ranges between 18.5-24.9; overweight is a BMI between 25.0-29.9; obese is between 30-34.9; severely obese is between 35-39.9; morbidly obese is between 40-50; and super obese is a BMI of 50 and over.

The most common co-morbidities that I see in patients with obesity include diabetes, hypertension, coronary artery disease, sleep apnea and joint pain. Other health problems that may occur with obesity include asthma, cardiovascular disease, degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis, depression, dyslipidemia, gastroesophageal reflux disease, infertility, lower back pain, metabolic syndrome, mortality, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, obstructive sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, urinary stress incontinence and venous stasis disease.

Being overweight or obese leads to adverse metabolic effects on blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin resistance. Non-fatal, but debilitating health problems associated with obesity include chronic muscoskeletal problems, skin problems and fertility problems. The likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes and hypertension rises steeply with increasing body fatness. Approximately 85 percent of diabetic people suffer from type 2 diabetes, and of these, 90 percent are obese or overweight, according to the World Health Organization.

So, how can you improve these co-morbidities? If you are in one of the overweight or obese categories, losing weight is the most effective way to reduce or eliminate many of the co-morbidities. A healthy lifestyle, including diet and daily exercise, is the key for reducing and preventing many of these obesity-related diseases. Studies have shown that even with minor weight loss, health problems such as hypertension or diabetes have greatly improved or eliminated the need for medications.

If you are overweight or obese and want to make a change, begin by talking with your primary care physician on what would be the best approach for you. If you are looking for a new physician, visit and click on “Find a Doctor.”

If you have a significant amount of weight to lose with even one or two of the above co-morbidities, weight loss surgery may be an option. There also are non-surgical approaches for losing weight through the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center. The main focus is a change in lifestyle and beginning to make better choices. Many co-morbidities are simply caused by excess weight and low activity. Eliminating even one could extend your life. Consider making a change today by calling the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center at 865-977-4673.

Dana Bradley is a registered nurse, certified bariatric nurse and bariatric coordinator for the Blount Memorial Weight Management Center.

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