7 Long-Term Health Risks for Overweight Teens

The effects of childhood and teenage obesity have long been associated with an increased risk of disease and premature death. Even though obesity can be caused genetically, environment and diet also have a great impact on BMI (body mass index) levels and healthy weight. Between 1980 and 2008 alone, obesity among American children increased dramatically from 5 to 18.1 %, according to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention. Not to mention the many other serious concerns it brings: obese teens also suffer from mental problems including depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Here are a few long-term health risks that overweight teenagers may face.

  1. Blount’s Disease

    Many young and overweight adolescents may suffer from Blount’s disease, a growth disorder of the shin bone causing the lower leg to turn inward due to added weight onto the growth plate. Blount’s Disease has been associated with obesity during a child’s early stages of walking and only gets worse from there. Obese teens will have to wear a leg brace after surgery to reposition the shin bone. If left untreated, progressive deformity can result in permanent disability.

  2. Sleep Apnea

    Obese individuals have greater risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea. The statistics are quite alarming, particularly when it comes to increased instances of sleep apnea among children age 6 to 17. A study conducted by the CDC found the number of hospital discharges for obesity-related medical complications rose by 436% during a 20 year period. Gaining weight, especially in the neck and trunk region, leads to sleep-disordered breathing that interrupts sleep and even compromises respiratory function. Moreover, with these sleep complications, it is even harder for obese individuals to wake up refreshed and ready to continue an active lifestyle.

  3. Osteoarthritis

    Osteoarthritis is the most common joint disorder related to the hands, hips, back, neck, and knees. There have been many studies about joint pain almost having a direct correlation to body weight. Excess weight puts more load and pressure on the joints such as the knee, which could very well hasten the breakdown (wear and tear) of the cartilage. According to the John Hopkins Arthritis Center, obesity certainly is a risk factor for developing osteoarthritis later in life, particularly osteoarthritis in the knees. Overweight women have nearly four times the risk of knee osteoarthritis; for overweight men, the risk is about five times greater.

  4. Asthma

    The prevalence of asthmatic complications among overweight children and teenagers has risen substantially since the 1970s. Today, up to 37% of overweight teenagers may have symptoms of asthma, according to WebMD Health News. Though it’s still a gray area as to exactly how much obesity contributes to this increasing percentage of asthma among children and teenagers, increased risks leading to respiratory tract inflammation seem to be a common trend among overweight individuals. The breathing habits of asthmatic obese individuals also show another link between asthma and obesity. Overweight individuals breathe at higher frequency, but lower volume, as compared to normal weight individuals.

  5. Coronary Heart Disease

    Excessive weight gain and obesity can greatly increase the likelihood of developing coronary artery disease (CAD). In a process called atherosclerosis, arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle become narrowed due to a build-up of plaque. The plaque, which consists of cholesterol, calcium, clotting proteins, and other compounds due to unhealthy diets, restricts the blood flow and oxygen to the heart, resulting in CAD, the most common type of heart disease. It’s the leading cause of death in the U.S. in both obese men and women.

  6. Hypertension

    Obesity is increasingly recognized as one of the most prevalent risk factors for developing hypertension. Although the association between obesity and hypertension is complex, obesity affects the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system most adversely. This system is responsible for maintaining the blood volume levels in your body, along with the sympathetic nervous system, which controls water retention and sodium intake. Both these factors are essential for the proper regulation of blood pressure. When obesity interferes with this neuroendocrine mechanism, hypertension (high blood pressure) is the result.

  7. Type 2 Diabetes

    A recently published article in The New York Times has confirmed that Type II Diabetes in children is progressively growing, as obesity rates are also increasing. The disease is more difficult to treat during youth and teenage years because of rapid growth and hormonal changes during this period. Controlling blood sugar levels is essential for youth with type II diabetes, as the body does not make enough insulin. The alarming rate of children developing obesity-linked type II diabetes shows a resistance to the drug to treat the disease, as some common pills like metformin and rosiglitazone simply lost effectiveness. It seems that an intensive diet, exercise, weight loss, and medication is necessary to manage the disease.