A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Heavy but healthy: Is it possible?

Two women eating dinner in the kitchen, laughing - Overweight and healthy?

Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly are key elements of living a healthy lifestyle.

Obesity is at epidemic levels in the United States, as more than 2 in 3 adults are considered overweight or obese, and nearly 1 in 6 from ages 2 to 19 are also considered obese. That data comes from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted in 2013-2014.

“Metabolically healthy obesity” is a term used to describe a person who is obese but does not have some of the common side effects associated with obesity like high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol. However, new data is challenging the notion that one can be obese and otherwise healthy.

The study found, “irrespective of metabolic health, overweight and obese people had higher CHD (coronary heart disease) risk than lean people. These findings challenge the concept of ‘metabolically healthy obesity,’ encouraging population-wide strategies to tackle obesity.”

Obesity: A long-term risk

Marshfield Clinic cardiologist Dr. Shereif Rezkalla said while an overweight or obese person may not have high blood pressure or other concerning warning signs today, their weight puts them at a higher long-term risk for things like diabetes, heart attacks and coronary heart disease.

Remember, when a person smokes today, he will not develop heart disease or cancer tomorrow,” Rezkalla said. “It’s the same situation here. Being obese or overweight may not harm you in the short term, but in the long run it is dangerous to your health.”

Rezkalla said obesity is a complex condition that is associated with difficulty in metabolizing glucose, a high level of triglycerides, insulin resistance and increased systemic inflammation.

“All of these things combined, given enough time, certainly will lead to increased risk of a heart attack,” he said.

Rezkalla said it is important for all care providers to be aware of the risk obesity represents to the health of their patients. If you’re concerned about your weight and overall health, talk with your provider.

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