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Comorbidities of Obesity

Our bodies are made up of a network of systems, each dependent on the other in order to work properly and keep us healthy. Severe obesity can lead to the development of serious, life-threatening health problems, often referred to medically as comorbidities. It is our goal that through the use of the proper tools to combat obesity, our patients can lead their healthiest and fullest lives possible.

Heart Disease

Obesity can place patients at a greater risk for heart disease, increasing the likelihood of risk factors like high blood pressure, changes in cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes. While heart disease can be used to refer to a wide range of conditions that affect the heart, the most common being coronary artery disease (CAD), which affects blood flow to the heart. CAD can lead to shortness of breath, chest pains, and heart attack.

Obesity’s relationship with heart disease means that weight loss and healthy lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of developing heart disease. Studies have found that patients who get weight-loss surgery reduce their risk of developing heart disease by about 40 percent.

Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a common condition that affects the way the body processes blood sugar. This condition can often result in increased health risks like stroke, cardiovascular disease, and kidney problems. There is a high correlation between obesity and the development of Type 2 diabetes — research has found that the disease is 3 to 7 times more likely in individuals with a BMI over 30, and 20 times more prevalent in individuals with a BMI greater than 35. Excess weight induces insulin resistance, meaning that your muscles, fat, and liver respond poorly to insulin and can’t easily absorb glucose from your blood.

Diabetes remission is possible, however, with patients seeing the positive effects of even moderate weight loss. Studies have shown gastric bypass to be a highly successful solution, reversing diabetes in 80% of obese patients.


According to the CDC, 45% of adults in the United States have hypertension, or high blood pressure. Though common, high blood pressure increases the risk of heart diseases like heart failure, heart attack, and stroke. Studies indicate that two-thirds of the prevalence of hypertension can be directly attributed to obesity.

Hypertension can often be managed through exercise, diet, and medication. However for obese patients, these lifestyle changes are not enough— studies have shown that obese patients’ bodies are less receptive to drugs used to treat hypertension. According to a recent meta-analysis, bariatric surgery has proven to be the most effective therapy for patients with severe obesity, with hypertension shown to be resolved or improved in 78.5% of patients.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a common condition during sleep when breathing stops involuntarily for brief periods of time due to airway constrictions in the throat. This interrupted breathing pattern fragments sleep, impacting quality and duration of rest which can lead to fatigue and further serious health issues. Snoring is a characteristic of sleep apnea. The presence of sleep apnea in obese patients is nearly twice that of normal-weight adults. Pressure is created by excess weight surrounding the respiratory system, increasing the collapsibility of airways.

According to a recent study, sleep apnea was found in 70% of patients undergoing weight loss surgery. The relationship between sleep apnea and obesity is converse, with research showing that sleep apnea itself is also a cause for obesity. However, through bariatric surgery procedures such as gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy, as well as long-term lifestyle changes for weight loss patients can expect an improved night of sleep and better health outcomes as a result.

Lung Disease

In a recent meta-analysis, researchers found that the prevalence of asthma was higher by 92% in obese patients. Obesity causes the mechanical compression of the diaphragm, lungs, and chest cavity, weakening the respiratory system and making patients more susceptible to lung diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

In a recent study, researchers observed that severely obese patients with asthma before and after bariatric surgery were found to have stronger respiratory muscles and decreased asthma symptoms and need for medication. Weight loss can lead to increased lung health, and bariatric surgery has proven effective in reversing the reduction of pulmonary function as well as decreasing shortness of breath in patients.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

Commonly known as heartburn, GERD is a condition that can be exacerbated by obesity. Increased pressure placed on the stomach by excess belly fat induces the backflow of acid that accounts for common symptoms like a burning sensation in the throat and chest. Beyond post-meal discomfort, over time GERD can cause irritation and inflammation in the esophagus leading to an increase in risk for serious illnesses like esophageal cancer. Additionally, GERD is related to hiatal hernias, which occur when a small part of your stomach bulges through the hole in your diaphragm that allows your esophagus to connect to your stomach.

According to studies, weight loss can significantly improve GERD, showing that participants with obesity saw reduced or complete resolution of their GERD symptoms. Patients who undergo bariatric surgery not only see improvements due to weight loss but also through the operation itself, as gastric bypass resolves symptoms of GERD in the majority of patients.

Susceptibility to COVID-19

As the pandemic has progressed, studies have found that COVID-19 patients who are obese have a higher risk of developing more severe, life-threatening symptoms. According to the CDC, severe obesity increases the probability of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a serious breathing problem that can be a cause for difficulty for doctors attempting to provide respiratory support for seriously ill patients. Additionally, as shown above, patients who are obese are more likely to suffer from underlying health issues that can exacerbate COVID-19, leading to further complications.

Studies have found that in pandemics such as H1N1 and Covid-19, patients who are obese are disproportionately affected due to obesity’s impact on pulmonary function. As we continue to face unknown disease, treating obesity is one of the primary actions one can take to fortifying one’s immune system.

Patients who have undergone Bariatric Surgery have seen an impact in their health as well as a profound decrease in risk for coronary heart disease and overall mortality. If you have a BMI of 35 or over as well as any of the above comorbidities you may qualify for a bariatric procedure.

To learn more about how weight loss procedures work and what may be right for you, check out our guide to weight loss surgery, Weight Loss Surgery 101. Learn more about Dr. Jeremy Korman and the practice here. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us via phone or through our contact page.

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