Does extra weight equal life-threatening diseases?

Although being a bit overweight may not cause significant problems, watching your weight can help you live a healthy life without any concerns.

   Some hold firmly to the belief that excess weight does not always lead to serious health-related problems. This issue has been addressed so far in many studies. While it is proven to be true in some cases, physicians believe that obesity increases the possibility of serious health risks such as heart diseases.
Considering this ongoing discussion, maintaining a healthy weight is highly recommended by all scientists. If you intend to know about your health condition, you need to get familiar with some measurement techniques. The most common scale is called BMI.


What is Body Mass Index (BMI)?

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measurement of an individual's weight, considering their stature. It is more of an indicator than a direct measure of individuals' total body fat.

Since BMI, more often than not, correlates with total body fat, by increasing BMI score, so does a person's entire body fat.


BMI calculation

The usage of a mathematical formula calculates BMI in a person. It can also be estimated through tables in which one can match stature to weight for estimating the final number. There are convenient calculators available online through which you can find BMI.

The formula is - BMI = (Weight in kilograms) divided by (Height in meters squared)

BMI score that falls between 18.5 and 24.9 is healthy. It shows that a person is within the normal weight range for their stature. A BMI chart helps to categorize a person as obese, overweight, normal, or underweight.



     Body Mass Index (BMI)                    Weight Status


  Below 18.5


  18.5 - 24.9


  25.0 - 29.9


  30.0 plus



Clinical relevance of BMI

BMI not only acts as an indicator of total body fat in many people but also is considered a health risk indicator.

BMI helps healthcare professionals to evaluate a person's health risks, which are related to overweight and obesity. For instance, those with a high BMI are at risk of:

  • type 2 diabetes
  • sleep apnea and snoring
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure and sugar level
  • stroke
  • certain cancers
  • gallbladder disease
  • premature death
  • osteoarthritis and joint disease
  • high blood cholesterol or other lipid disorders


When assessing the probability of these risks, doctors consider several factors like age, waist circumference, gender, level of physical activity, menopause status, and dangerous habits such as smoking.

BMI can be a good measure of obesity for most individuals. But it fails to provide actual information on body composition like the amount of muscle, fat, bone, and other tissues.

In some cases, BMI is a more accurate measure of body fat rather than others. For instance, very muscular persons may fall into the "overweight" category when they are healthy and very fit actually. These individuals with a very low body fat percentage may have the same BMI score as someone who is overweight.

Similarly, a frail and elderly individual might be in the normal weight category when they have a high percentage of body fat and little muscle mass.

Therefore, BMI, when used for adolescents and children who are still growing, pregnant women, those with large body frames or petite builds, and highly muscled individuals, must be assessed and interpreted carefully.


What Are the Risks?

Unfortunately, obesity and its related issues take many lives each year. The annual figure was initially estimated at 112,000 recently, according to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The researchers discovered that obese and underweight people had a higher risk of death compared to normal-weight people.

One thing that came as a huge surprise was that the researchers found no increased risk of death for obese people, suggesting that individuals with a few extra pounds but otherwise healthy lifestyles might be relatively healthy.

But don't go running to the candy store quite yet. These results are promising only if all the other factors are in order, factors such as waist circumference, a healthy diet, regular physical activity, no smoking, and a lack of significant medical issues or family history for chronic diseases.

Generally, being overweight can lead to an increase in the risk of health issues. In the following, some problems related to being overweight will be discussed.


Type 2 Diabetes

More than 87% of adults who have diabetes are obese or overweight. It isn't clear why individuals who are obese are more likely to develop this kind of disease. It might be that being overweight causes cells to change, making them resistant to the hormone insulin. 


Also read Does Diabetes Always Have a Genetic Cause?


High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is linked to obesity in several ways. Having a large body size can increase blood pressure because your heart needs to pump harder for supplying blood to all your cells. Excess fat may also damage your kidneys, which helps regulate blood pressure.


Heart Disease

People who are obese or overweight have health issues that might increase the risk of heart disease. These health-related problems include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol. Additionally, excess weight can cause changes to your heart that make it work harder for sending blood to all the cells in your body.



Obesity and overweight are known to increase blood pressure. High blood pressure is the main reason for strokes. Excess weight also increases your chances of development of other problems related to strokes, including high cholesterol, heart disease, and high blood sugar.



Being overweight as an adult can increase the risk for different kinds of cancers, even if the weight gain doesn't result in obesity or overweight. It isn't known exactly how being obese increases cancer risk. Fat cells might release hormones that affect cell growth, which can lead to cancer. Also, physical activity or eating habits that can lead to being overweight may contribute to an increase in the risk of the following cancers:

  • breast, after menopause
  • endometrium (lining of the uterus)
  • colon and rectum
  • kidney
  • gallbladder


Sleep Apnea

Being overweight is one of the most important risk factors for sleep apnea. A person who is overweight has more fat stored around their neck. It might make the airway smaller and breathing difficult or loud (because of snoring). In some cases, breathing may stop altogether for short periods. Additionally, fat stored in the neck and throughout the body can produce substances that cause Inflammation in the neck, which is a risk factor for sleep apnea.



Obesity is one of the risk factors for osteoarthritis, along with joint injury, genetic factors, and age. Extra weight places extra pressure on joints and cartilage (the hard but slippery tissue that covers the ends of your bones at a joint), causing them to wear away. In addition to it, people with more body fat may have higher blood levels of substances which lead to inflamed joints and raise the risk for osteoarthritis.


Fatty Liver Disease

The reason for fatty liver disease is still not known. The disease mostly affects individuals who are overweight or obese, diabetic, and middle-aged. Fatty liver disease can affect children, as well.

Although there is no specific treatment for this disease, patients are advised to lose weight generally, increase physical activity, being on a healthy diet, and avoid drinking alcohol.


Kidney Disease

Being overweight increases the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes, the most common reasons for chronic kidney disease. Recent studies recommend that even in the absence of these risks, obesity itself might promote chronic kidney disease and quicken its progress.


Pregnancy Problems

Obesity and overweight raise the risk of health issues for both mother and baby that can occur during pregnancy. Pregnant women who are overweight or obese may have an increased risk for:

  • Development of gestational diabetes (high blood sugar during pregnancy) 
  • Having preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy which can cause severe issues for both mother and baby if left untreated)
  • Needing a C-section and consequently, taking longer to recover after giving birth


Babies of obese or overweight mothers are at an increased risk of:

  • Having neural tube defects (defects of the brain and spinal cord)
  • Being born too soon
  • Being stillborn (dead in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy)


Pregnant women who are obese are more likely for the development of insulin resistance, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. Overweight also increases the risks related to surgery and anesthesia.


While scientists are continuously investigating the relationship between diet, exercise, and weight management, it is still so challenging to come up with a single weight loss formula.

The main reason is that all individuals burn calories and exercise at different rates, which influences weight control. The role genetics play in this regard must be taken into consideration as well.

It's important to remember that consuming a well-balanced diet and doing exercise on a regular basis are beneficial for all of us. Moreover, losing weight can enhance our health without moving our BMI into the "normal" range. Losing as little as 5% to 10% of body weight can significantly impact on cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels.

By learning more about the links between extra weight and health-related issues, we can maintain a normal weight, stay healthier as we grow older, and live a happy life.