The Effects of Obesity on Health

The Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center provides comprehensive options to treat obesity, a condition in which the body has too much fat. The long-term effects of obesity are wide-ranging and can be serious. Obesity is a risk factor for:

Ozanan R. Meireles, MD speaks to a patient about the Mass General Weight Center programs.
Ozanan R. Meireles, MD, speaks to a patient about the Mass General Weight Center programs
  • Diabetes: Obesity and decreased physical activity are two factors that are linked to type 2 diabetes. Both can cause resistance to insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Insulin resistance leads to high levels of sugar in the blood
  • Heart disease: Heart disease is more common in individuals with obesity, as arteries that supply the heart with blood flow become narrow with the buildup of fatty deposits (atherosclerosis). Reduced blood flow can result in various heart diseases, lead to heart attacks or to the formation of blood clots that can lead to stroke
  • Infertility: New research has shown that women with obesity have higher rates of infertility than women who are overweight or normal weight
  • Joint pain and osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and occurs with the breakdown of a joint's cartilage, the rubbery material that surrounds the end of bones within a joint. Cartilage protects the joints by absorbing some of the shock from motion. Obesity places extra stress on the body’s joints, causing pain and leading to cartilage breakdown
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD): Increased levels of fat in the liver cells can lead to inflammation and tissue scarring. In extreme cases, an excess of scarred tissue can lead to cirrhosis, a severe condition that can lead to liver failure and liver cancer
  • Respiratory complications: Additional weight on the chest wall adds pressure to the lungs, making breathing difficult. An individual may experience wheezing and shortness of breath. Recent studies also suggest that obesity may change a body’s immune system, causing lung inflammation, which could lead to asthma
  • Sleep apnea: During obstructive sleep apnea, the muscles of the throat relax, narrowing the airway passage and restricting airflow, causing an individual to stop breathing for short periods and interrupting sleep. Constant disruption of sleep over a long period of time can lead to daytime sleepiness, depression, high blood pressure and weight gain. Obesity can result in obstructive sleep apnea, as extra weight around the neck can place pressure on the throat muscles, leading to obstructed airways. This additional pressure can also lead to heavy snoring

Personalized, Comprehensive Support

The Mass General Weight Center is a fully integrated center that supports people of all ages seeking help with obesity and weight loss. We work with you to develop customized treatment plans that draw upon our state-of-the-art behavioral and surgical programs to meet your individual needs. As part of the Digestive Healthcare Center at Mass General, our patients have access to specialists in obesity medicine, bariatric surgery, psychology, nutrition, endocrinology, gastroenterology and pediatrics in one location.

Schedule an Appointment

To schedule your first visit with the Mass General Weight Center, you can call 617-726-0373 or request an appointment online. Our staff will ask for a consultation request from your primary care physician, help you schedule an orientation session and answer any questions that you may have. At the new patient orientation you will meet members of our staff and learn about the programs we offer.

Following orientation, we will schedule individual visits with a registered dietitian, a psychologist and a physician specializing in obesity medicine. During these sessions, we will ask questions about your expectations and goals, and learn more about your overall health.

After your visits, the Weight Center team will meet and create a customized treatment plan suited to your needs. This plan may include nutritional, exercise and behavioral counseling, and if appropriate, weight loss surgery. Some therapies may be offered in group and/or individual sessions.

Request an appointment

To learn more about this program or to refer a patient, call 617-726-0373.

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