Healthy Living Through Environment, Policy and Improved Clinical Care (EPICC) Program

Related Conditions

Obesity can lead to other serious conditions

Being overweight or obese often leads to many serious conditions. Some of these are chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, arthritis, asthma, and some cancers. In addition, overweight or obese people are at increased risk for depression and illness and death due to violence and injury. Below, these and other related conditions are discussed in greater detail.

Diabetes

Obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes. Obesity is a major risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes (previously called noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus or maturity-onset diabetes). Type 2 diabetes is often considered a lifestyle disease and is associated with being overweight or obese, physical inactivity, and poor dietary habits. The prevalence of diabetes is dramatically higher in obese and overweight people. In fact, nationally 80% of people with diabetes are overweight.

Hypertension, Stroke, and Heart Disease

Being overweight or obese increases the risk of high cholesterol, hypertension (high blood pressure), cardiovascular disease, angina, heart attack, and stroke. The prevalence of high cholesterol is greater in overweight and obese adults than those of ideal weight. The most recent data show that 27.3% of Utahns who were overweight and 34.5% of Utahns who were obese had high cholesterol levels compared to 19% of those who were at their ideal weight. This is similar for high blood pressure. 23% of overweight and 36% of obese individuals had high blood pressure, compared to 13% of those at their ideal weight.

Reproductive Health

Obesity has an impact on reproductive health. Obese women are more likely to have irregular menstrual cycles, are more likely to have hormonal contraception failure, infertility problems and may have lower success rates with infertility treatments. Obese men have been found to have higher rates of low sperm counts and poor sperm motility. In pregnancy, obese women are at increased risk for birth defects, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, eclampsia, cesarean section, macrosomia, instrumental delivery, fetal distress, stillbirth, and early neonatal death. Obese pregnant women are also more likely to have longer labors and are more likely to have their labors induced or augmented. Women who were obese prior to pregnancy self report higher rates of postpartum depression. Breastfeeding rates are lower in obese women and their offspring are at a higher risk for being obese in adulthood. Visit the Reproductive Health website or the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) website for more information.

Arthritis

Being overweight or obese increases the risk for certain types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis, a slowly evolving degenerative disease, is the most common form of arthritis, and is a major cause of pain and physical disability in older adults. The relationship between obesity and osteoarthritis may be explained because a person who is overweight or obese has increased force exerted on their joints, which may result in a breakdown of cartilage and increased pain. Across all age groups, obese adults appear to be more likely to report arthritis than those at ideal weight. Go to the Utah Arthritis Program website to find more information on how to assist in accessing local resources, to help manage arthritis.

Asthma

Asthma is a growing health problem. Since 2001, asthma prevalence has been increasing in Utah, which is similar to increasing trends nationwide. In 2007, 8% of the Utah population had asthma. Obesity has been shown to be associated with asthma prevalence, severity, and persistence in adults and children. People who are overweight or obese and have asthma may gain control of their asthma by losing weight as well as improving overall health. Weight loss in adults with asthma has been shown to increase lung function, reduce asthma exacerbations, and increase quality of life. Find out how you can help communities improve the quality of life for people with asthma by going to the Utah Asthma Program website.

Cancer

Cancer is a group of diseases characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. The development of cancer can be linked to an individual's lifestyle, environment, and/or family history. The prevention of cancer worldwide is one of the most pressing challenges facing scientists and public health policy makers today. Food and nutrition, physical activity, and body composition all play an important role in the prevention of cancer. While high body fat percentage and physical inactivity can increase the risk of some cancers, eating healthy and getting enough physical activity at any age can promote health and reduce cancer risk. Following the recommended cancer screening recommendations and maintaining a healthy weight throughout life may be the most important way to protect against cancer. More information can be found on the Utah Cancer Control Program website of cancer screenings, programs and education materials.

Violence and Injury

Obesity can increase the risk of injury from motor vehicle crashes, falls, and violence. Obese people are twice as likely to die or be seriously injured in a motor vehicle crash than those with a healthy weight. This may be due to a variety of factors including the use of emergency medical equipment that is not designed to handle obese people, suffering from sleep disorders which can increase the likelihood of falling asleep while driving, and lower seat belt usage. Adverse childhood experiences such as violence in the home and abuse or neglect has shown to increase the risk of obesity. Additionally, obese people may be more vulnerable to weight-based teasing and social isolation, thereby resulting in low self-esteem, depression, and suicide. For more information visit the Violence and Injury Prevention Program website.

Depression

Depression and mental health may be related to obesity. A recent study done at the Utah Department of Health found that obese adults had higher rates of major depression than adults of normal weight. Further analysis showed that even after accounting for age, sex, level of education, and employment status, adults with major depression were more than 1.5 times likely to be obese.