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Understanding Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome

Individuals more than 100 pounds overweight, have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more, or who have developed metabolic syndrome are less likely to be able to reverse these conditions with diet and exercise alone.  

Printable BMI Chart for Adults

BMI Range

< 18.5

18.5 - 24.9

25 - 29.9

30 - 40

> 40  



Normal weight



Morbidly Obese

Metabolic Syndrome

Individuals with increased blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels may be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, a combination of medical conditions that increase risk for heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. "Metabolic" refers to the biochemical processes involved in normal function of the body. Individuals with metabolic syndrome are at high risk for heart attack, stroke, polycystic ovary syndrome, fatty liver disease, gallstones, asthma, sleep apnea, and some forms of cancer.

Two main factors that lead to metabolic syndrome are excess adipose tissue which stores fat and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance, even without the presence of severe obesity, is a high risk factor for developing metabolic syndrome. A normal digestive system breaks food into glucose (sugar). Blood carries glucose to the body's tissues where it enters cells through insulin and uses the glucose as fuel. In individuals with insulin resistance, the body's cells do not respond appropriately to the insulin and cells cannot absorb the glucose for energy. The body produces more insulin to compensate resulting in a excess amount of insulin in the body, often resulting in diabetes.

If the body's biochemical processes are not functioning properly, five common conditions can occur:

  • Obesity, especially abdominal obesity
  • High triglyceride level
  • Low HDL cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • High fasting blood sugar


Obesity is a disease that occurs when adipose tissue, which stores fat and is active with hormones, grows too large in the body and weight is gained. Genetic and environmental factors impact hormone levels and cause an imbalance in energy levels of the body.

Diseases associated with obesity include metabolic syndrome, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiac disease including high cholesterol and high triglycerides, sleep apnea, and other pulmonary disorders. Weight management is the most important step to prevent chronic illnesses associated with obesity.

Additional Complications of Obesity

Obesity related health conditions can significantly reduce life expectancy, and lesser consequences can impact daily life, including:

  • High blood sugar (pre-diabetes or Type 2 diabetes). Over time, high blood sugar can cause serious damage to the body affecting eye sight, nervous system, circulation, and healing.
  • High blood pressure can result in strokes and significant heart and kidney damage
  • Osteoarthritis of weight bearing joints especially knees, hips, and back causing inflammation, disc problems, pain and difficulty moving
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems; resulting loss of sleep causes daytime drowsiness and headaches; use of CPAP machine at night can be disruptive to sleep partners and difficult when traveling
  • Depression. Individuals who suffer from obesity often face discrimination and physical obstacles. This can create constant challenges to emotions.
  • Menstrual irregularities / infertility; disruptions of the menstrual cycle include no menses, abnormal menstrual flow, increased pain during menstruation, and difficulty in achieving pregnancy