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Risks associated with being overweight

Posted by Aisling Murray on


What does it mean to be overweight or obese?

To be overweight or obese means you have an abnormal or excessive fat accumulation in the body and this may impair health. To determine whether you are obese or overweight a simple index known as the body mass index (BMI) is calculated. BMI calculates your weight compared to your height; there are even online tools to calculate your BMI for you (simply input your weight and height).





Less than 18.5

Healthy Weight

18.6 – 24.9


25.0 – 29.9


Greater than 30


BMI is beneficial for assessing a person’s risk of disease, such as heart disease and diabetes and can give an indication of how likely you are to develop these diseases.


Health risks of being overweight

There are a huge amount of negative health risks related to being overweight or obese. The more body fat you have the more likely you are to develop conditions such as:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Cancers
  • Gallbladder disease and gallstones


Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is one of the most costly and common chronic diseases of our time. It is linked with being overweight and if small lifestyle changes are made, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes may be decreased. Modest weight loss and physical activity may help prevent or delay the onset of type two diabetes in overweight individuals. Studies indicate that abdominal fat causes cells to release “pro-inflammatory” chemicals which can result in the body becoming less sensitive to the insulin it produces; this is known as insulin resistance which is the biggest trigger for type 2 diabetes.


Heart disease

Heart disease is used to describe a number of conditions which can affect your heart such as narrowed or blocked blood vessels. If you have heart disease then you are at an increased risk of having a heart attack, heart failure, angina (chest pain) and even sudden cardiac death. People who are overweight or obese are at a greater risk of heart disease, including hypertension (high blood pressure), increased cholesterol levels and impaired glucose tolerance (cause of diabetes which increase cardiac risk). It appears that the excess weight may cause changes to the heart meaning it needs to work harder in order to send blood to all the cells in the body.



A stroke is a blood clot in the brain and is very serious and life threatening; the chances of it occurring increase as your BMI rises. Being overweight or obese can lead to a build-up of plaque in the arteries and if this ruptures it causes a blood clot to form. If the clot is near your brain, the flow of blood and oxygen is blocked and causes a stroke.


Dangers relating to being overweight

Having excess abdominal fat is extremely dangerous as it is stored around the organs like the liver, heart and lungs and is the cause of damage to the cells and tissues around these regions. This in turn can lead to a greater risk of heart disease and stroke. If you are concerned about your weight there are a few life changing alterations you need to make.

Balanced diet

A balanced diet is just that, it’s a balanced way of eating. The simplest way to identify a balanced diet is outlined in the Food Pyramid. A balanced diet not only helps us feel good, but it can also help us lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. A balanced diet can reduce our risk of heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and some cancers. In order to eat a balanced diet it’s essential to combine several different types of healthy foods. These foods are categorised into food groups including carbohydrates, fruit and vegetables, dairy, protein and healthy fats.


Guide to what we should eat daily

Carbohydrates: 6 – 8 portions daily; this includes bread, rice potatoes, pasta, etc. Brown or wholemeal versions are better

Fruit and vegetables: 5+ portions should be consumed daily

Dairy: 3 portions a day; opt for low fat where possible (for weight loss)

Protein: 2 portions; include meat, fish, eggs, beans and lentils


By eating a balanced diet you also increase fibre intake which helps absorb extra fat and cholesterol. Essential vitamins and minerals and antioxidants all contribute to good all round health. Include a range of coloured foods from green, to orange, red, and yellow. Choose whole fruits and vegetables over juices as they include more fibre. Try and include plenty of fish in the week as it contains healthy omega -3 fats or flax seeds if fish is not desired.



Weight loss can be difficult at the best of times but when you are eating too much of a good thing it can be very frustrating. The foods you are consuming should be healthy but this doesn’t mean you can over eat them at meal times (going back for seconds etc.).  Foods like nuts, coconut, avocado, fruit, dairy, meat are all beneficial in the right quantity. These foods can contain high levels of fat/sugar/salt and it’s important for weight loss that you know how much you are consuming. I recommend watching your portions of vegetables too by making sure you are eating enough of them in a day. To avoid overeating stick to recommend portions for each food group and try eating from a smaller plate. To ensure you get more vegetables at lunch and dinner time place them onto your plate before any other food.



If you are inactive your risk of disease is higher than someone of the same weight who walks for 30 minutes a few times a week.  When I mention exercise I am not expecting you to be working out for hours on end in the gym. I suggest to most clients to go for a walk/swim/cycle 3-4 times a week for 30minutes; this will aid in weight loss and also improve fitness level. Regular exercise also decreases intra-abdominal fat, reducing risk of cancer, heart disease and other chronic diseases. A weigh loss of 10% of your body weight can greatly help reduce risk of disease so every little helps.


Whelehans Nutrition Service         

Whelehans nutritional service is a private one to one advice service with our nutritionist Aisling Murray. Aisling’s areas of interest include weight loss management, nutrition education and food intolerance. Our nutrition service offers you the chance to change your life in a positive way by focusing on your overall wellbeing as well as the chance to follow up on your progress.


Aisling Murray has a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and offers a one to one specialist nutrition service at Whelehans Pharmacy. Call Whelehans at 04493 34591 for an appointment


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