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4 Lesser-Known Health Risks of a High BMI

Healthy Lifestyle

Surely you’ve heard of body mass index (BMI). Perhaps you even know yours. BMI is a measurement of a person’s weight in relation to their height.

BMI ranges are:

  • Underweight: Less than 18.5
  • Normal: 18.5 to 24.9
  • Overweight: 25 to 29.9
  • Obese: 30+

It’s well understood that a BMI of over 25 can put you at greater risk for things like heart disease and high blood pressure, but the dangers of being overweight go so much further. There are many risks tied to a high BMI that you may have never heard of.


Obstructive sleep apnea

When you’re overweight, you tend to carry excess fat everywhere on your body – and that includes your neck. This can make it more difficult to breathe at night. As a result, you may snore or even stop breathing for a few seconds.

This is known as obstructive sleep apnea. It can:

  • Disrupt your spouse’s sleep
  • Cause you to feel tired and moody during the day

If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to pulmonary hypertension and right-sided heart failure and arrhythmias. 


Osteoarthritis

The more weight you carry, the harder it is on your weight-bearing joints. These include your:

  • Ankles
  • Knees
  • Hips

If you have a BMI of 25 or higher, it wouldn’t be uncommon for you to experience stiffness in these joints or even osteoarthritis (OA), in which the cartilage that protects your bones breaks down, causing pain and swelling.

Patients with OA often describe it as debilitating. Simple joint-involved movement can become nearly impossible, and joint replacement may be necessary. 

 

Fatty liver disease

Being overweight is uncomfortable for a lot of people. For many, it’s a self-esteem issue – they don’t like the way they look. But the fat you can’t see can be even more concerning.

Fatty liver disease is a condition in which excess fat begins to build up in your liver. If blood tests show elevated levels of liver enzymes that aren’t related to infection or medication, your doctor may order an abdominal ultrasound to confirm you have the disease.

Over time, fatty liver disease can lead to worsening liver function tests and could eventually lead to cirrhosis, which is scarring of the liver.
 

Cardiomyopathy

High blood pressure – which is commonly associated with a high BMI – can lead to cardiomyopathy, a disease in which the heart becomes thick and stiff. When the heart is hardened, it’s more difficult for it to pump blood to the rest of your body.

Think of it like any other muscle that strengthens over time with work and resistance. When the heart is forced to pump against increased resistance (high blood pressure) it becomes harder, but in this case, that’s not a good thing.

This can lead to poor circulation, which can cause:

  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke


Keeping your BMI in check

While BMI isn’t the only measurement of your overall health, it is a good guideline.

If you’re working toward lowering that number, it all goes back to the basics: Eat less, move more. Aim to exercise three to four times a week, and make sure the majority of your meals consist of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Despite your best of efforts, though, sometimes underlying issues can prevent you from losing weight. Don’t hesitate to seek help from your provider. Give us a call today!

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Stuart Frigyes

About the Author:

Dr. Stuart Frigyes, an internist at Methodist Physicians Clinic Cass Street, takes pride in the personal relationships he has with his patients.

“I know about their families. I know about their interests,” he said. “But even medically, without even opening their charts, I know each of them very well.”

See More Articles by Stuart Frigyes