What is more nerve-wrecking – a lifestyle change, or facing a host of long-term effects from obesity?
For many people living with obesity, the change is difficult to make.
“It’s hard to change,” said Dr. Allison Freeman, PA-C, RT(R), of Meritus Medical Center.
The effects of obesity are far-reaching and various. They include Type-2 diabetes, heart disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, respiratory complications and sleep apnea.
“The biggest problem, ultimately, is increased morbidity or mortality, or a shorter lifespan,” Freeman said.
According to doctors, if obesity begins in childhood, the likelihood for it to continue into adulthood is significant. The long-term consequences can be devastating.
“Children who have diabetic issues when they’re younger – their diabetes will progress much, much faster than an adult,” said Dr. Beth Smolko, PA-C. “They can have nerve disorders, nerve problems, kidney problems – all sorts of problems along the way.”
“Your cells are programed from a young age, and you can have an increased amount of cells from a young age,” Freeman added. “Those numbers don’t go away. So, even when you try to lose weight, you still have those same numbers of fat cells.”
While early death is the most severe effect, the long-term effects of carrying around extra weight are numerous.
Smolko said that 40 percent of several types of cancers are increased due to obesity.
“Liver cancer, stomach cancer, esophageal cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, prostate cancer, rectal cancer, colon cancer – all of these things are increased because of obesity,” Smolko said.
Despite the seriousness of the long-term effects, there is still a bright side.
“Let’s say you have these conditions. A lot of times, if you lose weight, you can go off a lot of medications,” Freeman said. “I hear from patients all the time, ‘I don’t want another medication. I don’t want to take another pill.’ Well, weight loss can be a treatment in and of itself for a lot of these conditions we’ve talked about.”
The main message from doctors? It’s never to late to change your lifestyle.