Understanding How Obesity Can Affect Your Overall Health

Obesity is a growing global epidemic. Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI, calculated as weight in kilograms divided by the square of height in meters) greater than 30.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Center for health Statistics, obesity affects more than one third of U.S. adults and almost 17% of children and adolescents. With 78 million U.S. adults and 12.5 million U.S. children and adolescents being obese it is a growing public health issue associated with significant obesity-related conditions.

Morbidly obese patients with a BMI > 40 (100 pounds above ideal body weight) have the highest incidence of these obesity-related conditions which include:

  • Diabetes mellitus type 2
  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol
  • Sleep apnea
  • Heart disease
  • Degenerative joint disease
The health risks of obesity make it a leading cause of preventable death in the United States with a reduction of life expectancy by as much as 12 years.

Understanding the Causes of Obesity

Obesity is a complex health problem with multiple factors playing a role in its causation.

Genetics may provide a predisposition to obesity which then interplays with the environment, individual metabolism, psychological or medical factors.


Several studies have demonstrated that there are genes associated with excess weight gain. This has manifested in some populations exhibiting very high rates of obesity such as the Pima Indians of Arizona.


Wide availability and easy access to fast foods and other high calorie foods make it easier to gain weight. This combines with a more sedentary lifestyle with includes less walking, more driving, more seated jobs, sitting on the couch, etc. that further encourages weight gain. This has essentially created a lifestyle shift which favors weight gain.


An individual’s weight is often a function of the calories consumed and the calories burned. There is also an individual set point for each person’s rate of metabolism. If this set point is low then it will be easier to gain weight.

Psychological Factors

Eating for emotional reasons has become very common. There are many people who eat to deal with the stresses of life and use food for comfort. Individuals with conditions such as depression and eating disorders may also eat excessively which in turn will lead to weight gain.

Medical Conditions

There are several medical conditions which may lead to weight gain and obesity. Often there is a hormonal abnormality such as Cushing’s syndrome or hypothyroidism. Undetected, these conditions can result in significant weight gain. Some medications such as steroids and antidepressants can also result in weight gain. It is very important to evaluate for such causes in order to address weight management effectively.

Understanding How Weight Loss Surgery Benefits the Obese Patient

Bariatric, or weight loss surgery, can be the first step for patients on the path to achieve a more healthy weight and improvement in their medical conditions.

Patients generally achieve the most significant weight loss in the first 1-3 yrs after surgery. Patients may lose up to 100% of their excess weight depending on the associated changes in diet and exercise.

Improved Health

Many health conditions resolve or improve significantly after weight loss surgery. These include:

  • Diabetes mellitus type 2
  • Hypertension
  • Sleep apnea
  • High cholesterol
  • Reflux
  • Arthritis

Other benefits include:

  • Less hospitalization for medical illnesses
  • Less need for medications
  • Prevention of new health problems
  • Better mobility
  • Improved mood
  • Better quality of life

Connect with a Bariatric Physician Specialist

For more information about Bariatric Surgery services at Providence Hospital, please call  1-800-258-5075.

Main hospital Phone: (202) 854 7000

Providence Hospital, 1150 Varnum Street, N.E. Washington, DC 20017 2180