Can you be healthy and overweight?

“My blood pressure is normal. My heart sounds great and so do my lungs. Does it really matter that my BMI is over 30?" 

In 2013, the American Medical Association designated obesity, having a BMI (body mass index) of over 30, as a disease. But questions arose around this. Is everyone who is obese truly “diseased”? Many felt that if blood pressure, heart and lungs were sound, why would extra weight automatically qualify a person as unhealthy?

Two studies prove that no, a person cannot be obese and still be considered healthy. 

The 2017 study, the largest to date asking this question, studied 20 years of medical records of 3.5 million adult men and women. Researchers initially divided the population into three categories depending upon BMI and the presence of the health conditions diabetes, high blood pressure or abnormal blood fats. Those who started with no pre-existing conditions but obese were defined as “healthy obese.”

Over the course of two decades, it was found that these healthy obese people were 49% more likely to develop heart disease and 96% more likely to have heart failure. They also had a 7% higher chance of stroke. 

As health conditions increased, so did risk. As the formerly healthy obese people developed diabetes, high blood pressure and blood fats, their risk for heart disease increased by 2.6 times, their risk for stroke increased by 58% and they saw a 2.2 time increase in the risk for peripheral artery disease. 

This confirms results from a 2015 study that had tracked 2,521 people over 20 years. Men and women were assessed for BMI, tested for cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and insulin resistance.They were divided into healthy obese, unhealthy obese, healthy non-obese and unhealthy non-obese. About a third of the group was categorized as healthy and obese. 

Nearly 40% of the healthy and obese population become unhealthy and obese in the first decade and by the second decade, 51% had. In contrast, just 22% of the healthy non-obese moved into the unhealthy non-obese category. 

About 11% of the original healthy obese group had lost weight and then were moved into the healthy non-obese category. 

This study also showed that obese people have a much higher rate of developing conditions that lead to debilitating illness and early death.  

The conclusion? The longer a person is obese, the greater the chance of developing conditions that lead to chronic, life changing health problems. While it may be possible to be “healthy” when first reaching a BMI of 30+, it’s proven that the vast majority of obese people, both men and women, will experience worsening health as they grow older. 

Are you ready to lose the weight before you develop high blood pressure, high blood pressure and bad cholesterol? First, calculate your BMI by clicking here. If your result is 30 or above, schedule a FREE consultation with Dr. Gaston to learn more about SlimSmart, the non-surgical weight loss procedure that’s bringing long-term results to dozens of people around Chicagoland.

Author
Metro Gastroenterology Consultants

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