A Ccomorbidity is a disease that develops as a result of another primary condition, such as obesity. The body is affected by excess weight and many complications can occur as a result, damaging various organ systems, including cardiovascular, respiratory, orthopedic, and even ophthalmologic. 69% of the Americans are currently overweight and 35% are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which have an increased risk of developing at least one comorbidity.
Most Frequent Obesity Comorbidities
Excess weight causes body dysfunction that becomes resistant to insulin’s action, which causes the development of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is among the most common comorbidities associated with obesity, since the stress in the system of cellular membranes called endoplasmic reticulum causes insulin resistance, increasing the probability of diabetes. In addition to diabetes, obese patients are also at risk of suffering other problems related to insulin resistance or developing glucose intolerance.
Breast, endometrial, ovarian, colorectal, esophageal, kidney, pancreatic and prostate cancer are all types of cancer that obese patients are more likely to develop than patients with an healthy weight. Between a fourth and a third of all cancer cases worldwide are related to excess weight and physical inactivity, according to the World Health Organization. In the case of women, the risk is related to the fact that body fat produces estrogen, a hormone related to the the development of cancer. Regarding cancer recovery, obese patients may face slower and less effective recovery than other patients as well.
Heart attack and stroke are two of the most important cardiovascular diseases associated to obesity. Abdominal fat is a risk factor for heart conditions at all ages, doubling the probability of suffering of these diseases, according to the Nurses’ Health Study. The risk is correlated with the amount of excess weight, with weight and heart disease both increasing together. The fat prevents the normal blood flow and other diseases like myocardial hypertrophy, cardiomyopathy, and congestive heart failure are also comorbidities to obesity.
High blood pressure is also very common among obese patients, due to the accumulation of fat in the abdominal area. The abdominal adiposity is responsible for the production of hormones called cytokines that cause hyperinsulinemia, the same ones that result in type 2 diabetes. Due to the hyperinsulinemia, the absorption of sodium is increased, alongside kidney abnormalities, which are related to hypertension. Weight loss, even a modest one, has a major impact on the decrease of blood pressure.
Asthma and obstructive sleep apnea are diseases that may result from the effect of excess weight in the respiratory system. Overweight can compromise the normal function of the lungs and airways, causing symptoms of asthma, inflammation in the respiratory tract of sleep apnea. According to a 1999 study, children who suffered from obesity had an increased risk of developing asthma of 77%. Sleep apnea is responsible for short but repetitive moments of inability to breath during the sleep and can ultimately cause systemic hypertension, myocardial ischemia, cardiac arrhythmia or stroke.
It is estimated that more than 40% of Americans over 50 years old suffer from metabolic syndrome due to overweight. The disease is characterized by the large waist perimeter and it is caused by the body’s distribution of fat. Excess fat in the abdominal area, particularly in cases of obesity, increases the risk of obesity. It can, in addition, lead to the accumulation of acirds in the portal vein, increasing the amount of fat in the liver and muscle cells.
Less Frequent Obesity Comorbidities
In addition to the previous comorbidities, there are also other more rare diseases that associated with obesity, which include congestive heart failure, fatty liver syndrome, gall bladder disease, depression, stress and other social or psychological disorders, menstrual irregularities, osteoarthritis and acid reflux disease (GERD). Not only does the existence of comorbidities influence patients’ overall health, but it also impacts treatment.
Patients who suffer from obesity and at least one other disease are more eligible for a surgical weight loss method. Moreover, insurance companies are more likely to cover obesity treatments in the case of comorbidities. Usually, the rules from insurance companies apply for patients with Body Mass Index (BMI) higher than 35 and two comorbidities to cover weight loss surgery, but each case must be discussed individually with the company.