Synonyms for morbid abound: gloomy, gloomy, sad, gloomy, omen, sad, taciturn, ominous, and hopeless. It’s no wonder that people are offended at being diagnosed with a condition that suggests such a ghastly disease.
However, medically speaking, the word “morbid” denotes a condition that has progressed to the level of unsanitary or disease. Morbid obesity is defined as 100 pounds above ideal body weight, or at least 200% of ideal body weight.
Just as alcoholism causes liver damage and family disorders, morbid obesity is associated with predictable patterns of disease. While true, not everyone who fits the definition will suffer from any of these, the following problems are common enough to be classified as morbid obesity hazards:
1. Type 2 diabetes. Obesity is associated with insulin resistance, a condition that may require more insulin production than the pancreas can supply. When glucose levels exceed insulin production, it leads to diabetes, a risk factor for heart disease and a multitude of chronic problems.
two. High blood pressure. Just as weight loss can lower blood pressure, weight gain will raise the systolic and diastolic levels. Quite often, diabetes and hypertension are found in the same person, multiplying the risk of cardiovascular problems, including heart attacks and strokes.
3. High cholesterol. Both high food intake and high body weight contribute to high cholesterol levels, a third factor in cardiovascular disease.
Four. Sleep apnea and breathing difficulties. When fat accumulates in the upper body, it can contribute to airway obstruction, especially during sleep, leading to periods of decreased oxygenation and frequent awakenings. This leads to daytime sleepiness and the feeling of never being rested. Also, breathing becomes a major strain as the body must lift extra tissue to allow the lungs to expand. As exercise becomes more difficult, a person often becomes less active, leading to a loss of fitness and increased shortness of breath.
5. Degenerative joint and disc disease. The body is a machine, created with certain tolerances. Our knees, hips, and backs weren’t designed to bear a hundred extra pounds all day, year after year. Like the bumps in an overloaded truck, weight-bearing joints give way over time, leading to pain and movement problems.
6. Heart disease. The heart was designed with the ability to pump blood effectively, but only within a certain capacity. As the body expands, the heart must work harder. Over time, you can’t keep up and congestive heart failure develops. Additionally, obesity is a risk factor for cholesterol build-up in the coronary arteries, which can lead to angina or myocardial infarction (heart pain or heart attack).
7. Fatigue. Carrying a spare tire day after day would tire anyone. Carrying a whole game seems impossible, however, many people carry so much weight and more in every moment of their lives. It’s no wonder that carrying the equivalent of a dozen bowling balls leaves a person fatigued.
8. Venous stasis edema. Excess fat sometimes obstructs the return flow from the lower body. Just as sitting on a garden hose would limit the flow of water through the hose, compressing the large abdominal and pelvic veins by a large abdomen decreases the flow through these blood vessels. It’s pretty easy for arterial blood to get to the feet, it’s downhill all the way. But the return blood flow is uphill through the venous circulation. When venous circulation is compromised, swelling of the legs occurs. When this continues year after year, it causes chronic scarring and darkening of stretched skin.
9. Blood clots. Obesity is associated with increased inflammation, which tends to make the blood stickier and therefore clot more easily. Sticky blood, in association with inactivity and slower venous blood flow, increases the risk of blood clots. These usually start in the legs and then sometimes travel to the heart or lungs, where they can, in fact, be fatal.
Although the above list seems bleak, gloomy, sad, depressing, foreboding, sad and sinister, it is far from hopeless. Weight loss can improve or reverse each of these conditions. Get started today and make a difference.
Copyright © 2010 Cynthia J. Koelker, MD
Morbid obesity. The very name suggests a sinister affliction.