If you are severely overweight, there are several obesity health risks of which you should be aware.  All of them can be serious, and all of them can lead to a less than fulfilling lifestyle.  Obesity in adults is determined by the Body Mass Index, or BMI, and is defined as a BMI of 30 or greater.[1725]  While the Body Mass Index is not always a perfect way to decide if a person is overweight or obese, it is generally a good clue as to whether or not a person is at an increased risk of obesity-related health problems.  The obesity health risks in this article are predominantly for adults, but children can experience many of these same issues.

Obesity Health Risk #1 - Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not effectively use insulin to turn sugar into energy.  This leaves too much sugar in the blood stream and can lead to organ damage and failure.  Type 2 Diabetes has a strong genetic link, but unlike Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes can be managed by eating healthier, losing weight, and living a more active lifestyle.  The symptoms of diabetes are much the same in both types of the disease, however.

Obesity Health Risk #2 - Gallstones

Gallstones form when cholesterol and other items in the bile (created in the gall bladder) form stones.  Many people do not realize they even have gallstones, but when the stones block a bile duct, pain, fever, and chills begin to develop.  Eventually the pancreas can become swollen.  To reduce the health risk associated with gallstones, it is important to decrease the cholesterol intake into the body.

Obesity Health Risk #3 - High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, has many causes, and obesity is one of them.  Hypertension is when the force of blood against the artery walls are too strong.  This can result in a heart attack or stroke, as well as damaged organs.  Prescription drugs can help reduce the risks associated with high blood pressure, as can a healthier diet.

Obesity Health Risk #4 - High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a type of fat that we all need in order to survive.  However, a diet that is too high in fat and cholesterol can lead to heart disease and stroke.  A healthier diet and a more active lifestyle can help keep cholesterol levels down to acceptable levels and avoid obesity and its associated risks.

Obesity Health Risk #5 - Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is when a person does not breathe properly during sleep.  In some cases, breathing can stop completely.  Sleep apnea can be caused by obesity, and can--like all the other risks on this page--lead to a stroke. 

Obesity Health Risk #6 - Coronary Heart Disease

Coronary Heart Disease, or CAD, results from the buildup of plaque on the arterial walls.  This plaque is caused by excess cholesterol and other substances that slowly accumulate in the blood stream.  Eventually, this plaque buildup will reduce the proper flow of blood through the body and can result in heart attack and stroke.

Obesity Health Risk #7 - Stroke

If you haven't figured it out by now, all of the obesity health risks eventually lead up to a stroke.  A stroke is caused by a restriction of blood flow to the brain.  An unhealthy diet combined with a lack of physical activity results in less blood flow than normal, and when that affects the brain, a stroke occurs.  So while a stroke is definitely a risk associated with being overweight, in many cases it is the ultimate risk that all of the others lead to.

What to do to Lower the Risks of Obesity

In some cases, obesity is determined from birth.  Some people simply have trouble keeping weight off.  However, a healthy diet low in fat combined with an active lifestyle can severely reduce the dangerous obesity health risks.