Why Is Obesity a Risk Factor for Chronic Disease? + Prevention Tips

Heather Campbell
 min read

Why is obesity a risk factor for chronic disease?

Why Is Obesity a Risk Factor for Chronic Disease? + Prevention TipsIn addition to the many invisible symptoms, obesity is a clearly visible signal that can be linked to chronic conditions.

As a whole, about 35% of Americans over 18 are obese, a statistic which is rising. Obesity is a risk factor for other chronic conditions such as dementia, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. These come with increased risks of early deaths and limited quality of life.

More starkly, it is projected that by the year 2030, about 42-43% of American adults will be obese, and over 50% of the adult population in America will be overweight.

And elsewhere in the world, this problem is also playing out enormously with Europe, for example, facing the same increase. And meanwhile, unfortunately, many developing countries have also begun to catch up on obesity.

Continue reading to learn more about chronic conditions and their impact, and learn how to avoid them with 4 practical lifestyle rules.

Why is obesity a risk factor for chronic disease? Introduction

Not everyone who is obese will become chronically ill. And also, conversely, being skinny is no guarantee of not getting a chronic disease.

But obesity does and will continue to be a risk factor for chronic disease in the medium to long term.

There are fears that this massive wave of obesity is the precursor to a vast wave of chronic disease. For example, consider chronic conditions such as dementia, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, etc.

Today, millions of Americans already suffer from one or more chronic conditions.

And particularly disturbing, too, is the fact that life expectancy among low-educated 25-year-old women has already declined sharply…

Two risks due to chronic conditions

People run two significant health risks due to chronic conditions:

  • Early death (a loss of life years)
  • Loss of quality of life and having to spend a significant portion of life with major limitations in terms of daily functioning

Early mortality means dying before the expected age.

Sometimes you hear people say they would rather have a shorter but good life. This is understandable, but it is not a good argument for not paying attention to your lifestyle.

Because by living an unhealthy lifestyle, you run the risk of living a shorter life and risk losing quality of life for many years, sometimes decades.

So you need to consider the duration and the quality of your life.

The consequences of an unhealthy lifestyle become even more apparent when you add up the years lost due to premature death and the number of years people experience severe disabilities due to an unhealthy lifestyle.

Scientists speak of Disability-Adjusted Life Years in this context.

What are the causes of chronic conditions?

Smoking of tobacco

Every year, millions of people worldwide die from tobacco smoking.

Most smokers are men, but among young people today, women often smoke as much or even more than men.

It is also noteworthy that the smoking rate is more than twice as high among the less educated than among the more educated.

Excessive alcohol consumption

It is estimated that more than 5% of all deaths are due to the effects of excessive alcohol consumption.

People who drink a lot of alcohol are also more likely to be sick and thus generally struggle more with their health.

Bad nutrition habits

Only a tiny minority of all American adults eat the minimum recommended amount of fruits and vegetables (14 ounces per day).

Instead, we eat too much sugar, unhealthy ultra-processed foods, and too much red and processed meat.

As a result, people suffer, for example, from overweight, obesity, bad cholesterol, arteriosclerosis, and cardiovascular disease.

Lack of movement

Physical activity has a beneficial effect on our health and physical and mental well-being.

But only a minority of adults in the United States exercise enough to enjoy this beneficial health effect.

The majority of the adult population does not exercise enough, resulting in overweight and obesity.

Declining life expectancy in the United States

Particularly troubling, at least, is that life expectancy in some regions of the United States is currently sadly declining.

This could indicate a trend change from the past in terms of life expectancy due to poor and unhealthy lifestyles.

Some researchers state unequivocally that the current generation of young people is on its way to living shorter lives than their parents because they are already showing the signs of chronic diseases (such as obesity) due to current lifestyles.

A study in the leading and highly regarded medical journal The Lancet, based on current data, is already taking into account a worst-case scenario in which life expectancy will decline in the future.

Lower quality of life due to chronic diseases

There is an additional problem: we spend an increasing portion of our lives with chronic diseases and thus have to live with a lower quality of life.

Nearly one-third of people die before the age of 75, and a large majority live with one or more chronic conditions.

This is truly a frightening thought, but fortunately, we can do something about it! In fact, many chronic conditions are avoidable with the help of a few lifestyle rules.

In 2002, remarkable figures on this subject appeared in the journal Science:

  • Type 2 diabetes is avoidable in about 90% of cases
  • Coronary disease (calcification of the coronary arteries of the heart) is preventable in about 80% of cases
  • Colorectal cancer and strokes are preventable in 70% of cases

That means that, in theory, we could save hundreds of thousands of people in America from dying prematurely every year and save a multitude of them from all sorts of nasty chronic diseases.

An essential condition, of course, is that those chronic conditions can be reasonably avoided.

In other words, that they can be avoided without too heavy a burden on people and society.

How to avoid chronic conditions? 4 Lifestyle rules

The question is how to avoid chronic conditions reasonably and responsibly?

By using the following 4 simple lifestyle rules, you can already achieve a lot:

  1. Moderate exercise (at least half an hour of exercise per day, e.g., walking with a good stride or cycling)
  2. Pursue moderate weight (a BMI of less than 30) with the help of adequate exercise and a sensible diet
  3. Do not smoke (smoking is the devil for your body) and consume as little alcohol as possible
  4. Follow a good diet (eat lots of fruits and vegetables, whole-grain products, and only a limited amount of meat)

These 4 lifestyle rules alone generally lower the risk of chronic disease by more than 70%.

More specifically, by using the above 4 lifestyle rules, you can reduce your chances of chronic disease as follows:

  • More than 30% less chance of cancer
  • Nearly 50% less chance of stroke
  • More than 80% less chance of having a heart attack
  • Over 90% less chance of diabetes

Good to know: Unfortunately, if you already have specific problems such as diabetes or coronary problems, you can use the above lifestyle rules to address these chronic health problems to prevent aggravation or even alleviate them.

Why is obesity a risk factor for chronic disease? Conclusion

Obesity is a risk factor for chronic disease and thus can cause significant health problems.

The 2 greatest risks of chronic disease are premature death and a lower quality of life due to the chronic disease.

Armed with our 4 lifestyle tips, you can improve your lifestyle. Fortunately, you can even reduce your chances of certain chronic diseases to an absolute minimum.

Related articles:

About Heather Campbell

As a nutritionist, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More