Obesity is the most significant health epidemic in the world with studies finding that obesity can shorten life expectancy by up to 10 years. Every year, around 2.8 million people die due to weight related health complications making obesity the 5th leading cause of death worldwide. The reality is that the obesity directly or indirectly affects every part of our body.
Obesity is measured using the body mass index (BMI) scale. BMI is calculated based on your height and weight. A BMI of 25 to 30 is considered overweight, 30 to 35 is obese, and 35+ is morbidly obese. When patients have a BMI greater than 30, the risk of developing adverse health conditions increases. These conditions include high blood pressure, obstructive sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, cancers, arthritis, and depression. Obesity is a gateway to all these conditions, reducing life expectancy and quality of life.
The longer you are affected by obesity, the more these conditions can impact your health and the more obesity can shorten life expectancy. Similarly, the higher your BMI, the more complex these conditions are to control and the more severe they tend to be.
How Obesity can Shorten Life Expectancy
One study found that obesity can shorten life expectancy in individuals with moderate obesity (30 to 35 BMI) by three years, while patients with severe obesity (40+ BMI) may take as much as ten years off their life.
The primary reason for increased death rates in obese individuals is the prevalence at which obesity causes health problems. As an individual’s weight increases, so do the risks of developing significant health complications. Adults who suffer from extreme obesity (BMI of 40+) are at an increased risk of dying from cancer, heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes.
Obesity increases the risk of 13 different cancers, making up 40% of all cancer cases diagnosed in the United States annually. The American Cancer Society reports excess body weight is responsible for about 11% of cancers in women and 5% of cancers in men in the United States, and about 7% of all cancer deaths.
As expected, your diet significantly affects your weight; therefore, overweight individuals are at a higher risk of developing heart disease. Patients who are obese have a 28% increased risk of developing heart disease, while 41% of heart disease deaths are due to obesity.
A 5% increase in weight can lead to a 30% increase in the risk of hypertension. Many theories link obesity and hypertension as a result of the kidneys not functioning properly since the kidneys play a vital role in filtering the blood. The heavier a person is, the less effective their kidneys are at removing excess waste and liquid from the bloodstream, ultimately leading to the buildup of waste in the body.
Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death worldwide and is the most expensive long-term disease to treat. Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90% of all cases. Due to the long-term health consequences of diabetes, the risk of early death has nearly doubled, resulting in almost 4 million deaths a year.
Treating obesity can add more than ten years to your life expectancy and reduce or cure all of the weight-related comorbidities associated with your weight. Therefore, it is critical to recognize obesity as a chronic disease and understand how obesity can shorten life expectancy and quality of life.