Few know all the risks of obesity

Published Jan 10, 2013 at 04:00AM

WASHINGTON — Heart disease and diabetes get all the attention, but what about the many other ways obesity can damage your health?

Carrying too many pounds may lead to or worsen some types of cancer, arthritis, sleep apnea, even infertility. But a new poll suggests few Americans realize the links.

Only about one-quarter of people think it’s possible for someone to be very overweight and still be healthy, according to the poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Ask about the most serious consequences, and more than 7 in 10 Americans can correctly tick off heart disease and diabetes. Heart disease is the nation’s leading killer, and diabetes and obesity are twin epidemics.

The other consequences aren’t so well known.

“People are often shocked to hear how far-reaching the effects of obesity are,” said Jennifer Dimitriou, a dietitian at New York’s Montefiore Medical Center.

Just 7 percent of people surveyed mentioned cancer, although doctors long have known that fat increases the risk of developing cancers of the colon, breast, prostate, uterus and certain other sites. Plus, being overweight can make it harder to spot tumors early and to treat them.

Then there’s the toll on your joints, especially the knees. About 15 percent of people knew obesity can contribute to arthritis.

— The Associated Press