For most people, weight gain leading to obesity occurs gradually, over a period of years. As you gain weight, you will notice that your clothes feel tight, and no longer fit. However, symptoms of being overweight and obese can be more serious than just noticing that your clothes are tight.
Being overweight or obese can lead to joint pains, primarily in the low back, hip, and knee joints. People who are overweight are also more prone to develop carpel tunnel syndrome, and to develop rashes and fungal and bacterial infections of the skin. Overweight women have a higher chance of developing urinary incontinence, irregular menstrual cycles, and infertility. People who are overweight also get short of breath during exertion.
Many overweight and obese people suffer from sleep apnea, a condition characterized by moments during sleep when breathing ceases. This can occur as often as hundreds of times per night and, if untreated, can lead to cardiovascular problems and premature death. Individuals with sleep apnea often feel very tired, even during the day.
A combination of genetic and environmental influences are considered to be risk factors for weight gain and obesity. People with a family history of certain diseases, including heart disease and diabetes, are more likely to become obese and develop those same problems once obese. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, or high blood sugar levels are all warning signs of obesity-related diseases.
For some women, pregnancy is a major risk factor for obesity. Although most women weigh only a few pounds more after pregnancy, about 15% of women put on an additional 10 pounds with each pregnancy.
Underactive hypothyroid glands (hypothyroidism) have traditionally been thought to be a common cause of obesity. Of late, however, scientists feel that hypothyroidism rarely causes obesity because most obese patients who are treated for hypothyroidism do not lose their excess body weight.
Overfeeding during infancy and an increase in fat cells and connective tissue that stores fat (adipose tissue) during infancy and childhood has been shown to predispose children to obesity later in life.
Growing up in a low-income household limits access to high-nutrient, non-fatty foods. Therefore, being socially disadvantaged is an important risk factor for obesity; particularly for women.
Leading a sedentary lifestyle is a risk factor for obesity. Physical activity not only increases your energy, but also helps to control your appetite.
Using prescription drugs on a long-term basis has recently been recognized as a risk factor for obesity. Steroids and psychoactive drugs including traditional antidepressants (tricyclics, tetracyclics, and monamine oxidase inhibitors) and benzodiazepines, lithium, and antipsychotic drugs can cause weight gain.
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