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Bariatric Program

Obesity Frequently Asked Questions

Obesity is one of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States. But being overweight is not always due to a lack of willpower or exercise. Sometimes your family history may be to blame. For some people, no amount of dieting or exercising alone will help.

Difference Between Overweight and Obese

People who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of developing health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease. If you have a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 30, you are considered overweight. If you are overweight, losing even 5 percent of your body weight reduces your risk of developing chronic conditions. If you have a BMI greater than 30, you are considered obese.

What Is Obesity?

Obesity is a condition in which the body stores excess energy in the form of fat. You are considered obese if you weigh 20 percent or more over your ideal body weight or have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. Obesity is also categorized by severity:

  • Class 1: BMI of 30 to <35

  • Class 2: BMI of 35 to <40

  • Class 3: BMI of 40 or higher


What Is Morbid Obesity?

Morbid obesity is a condition in which individuals are at least 100 pounds over their ideal weight or have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or higher. Morbid obesity can result from emotional, biochemical and genetic influences. It is a potentially dangerous condition because it is a risk factor for other medical problems that may lead to disability and early death.

Health Problems Associated with Obesity

Heart & Vascular Disease

Obesity can lead to high blood pressure, which is associated with risk of heart disease, kidney failure and stroke.

Heart Disease

If you are obese, your heart has to work much harder than that of a person of normal weight. The additional stress on your heart may lead to heart disease, including congestive heart failure.

High Cholesterol

Cholesterol is often elevated in those who are severely overweight. This may lead to hardening of the blood vessels and heart disease.


An overweight person is 10 times more likely than a person of normal weight to develop Type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes. Diabetes is a major cause of adult-onset blindness, kidney failure and over one-half of all limb amputations. It is also the third leading cause of death in the United States.

Breathing Problems

An obese person, whose lungs are often not large enough to lift their heavy chest wall, can have trouble breathing, especially when active.

Asthma & Bronchitis

Obesity does not directly cause asthma or bronchitis, but can interfere with breathing and aggravate an attack.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea, usually associated with loud snoring, is a serious condition that occurs when soft tissue in the throat collapses, causing a complete blockage of the throat. If you have sleep apnea, you may wake up with a headache and fall asleep during the day. Sleep apnea is a life-threatening problem that can cause sudden death. It can also lead to high blood pressure and heart rhythm disturbances.

Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome

Obesity hypoventilation syndrome occurs primarily in those who are severely obese and is often associated with sleep apnea. Abnormal breathing causes toxic levels of carbon dioxide to build up in the blood. Symptoms include episodes of drowsiness or falling asleep during waking hours.

Muscle, Joint & Spine Problems

Being overweight compresses the spine, resulting in arthritis or a slipped disk. The nerve roots can also be irritated or compressed leading to sciatica, which is an intense pain down the outside of the leg. The hips, knees, ankles and feet also bear much of the weight of the body. These joints tend to wear out sooner, resulting in degenerative arthritis. Joint replacement surgery may be needed to relieve the pain. Joint replacement surgery is often avoided in severely overweight patients due to poor results.

Stress Urinary Incontinence

A large, heavy abdomen may weaken the valve on the urinary bladder leading to leakage of urine when coughing, sneezing or laughing.

Venous Stasis

The veins of the lower legs carry blood back to the heart and are equipped with an elaborate system of delicate, one-way valves. When the valves are damaged, the blood in the veins backs up resulting in leg swelling, thickening and sometimes ulceration of the skin.

Hormone Abnormalities in Women

Obesity can cause certain female sex hormones to become unbalanced. As a result, women may become unable to conceive and develop ovarian cysts or irregular menstrual periods.

Heartburn & GERD

Increased stomach pressure from abdominal fat results in a high rate of heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which causes belching, heartburn pain and a sour taste in the mouth.

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