The Surprising Reason Why Being Overweight Isn’t Healthy

It’s not just because fat ups your risk of disease. How much you weigh can keep you from getting the same health care everyone else gets.

Fredrik Broden

Its shocking, but its true: Being a woman whos more than 20 pounds overweight may actually hike your risk of getting poor medical treatment. In fact, weighing too much can have surprising—and devastating—health repercussions beyond the usual diabetes and heart-health concerns youve heard about for years.

A startling new Health magazine investigation reveals that if youre an overweight woman you:

  • May have a harder time getting health insurance or have to pay higher premiums;

  • Are at higher risk of being misdiagnosed or receiving inaccurate dosages of drugs;

  • Are less likely to find a fertility doctor who will help you get pregnant;

  • Are less likely to have cancer detected early and get effective treatment for it.

Whats going on here? Fat discrimination is part of the problem. A recent Yale study suggested that weight bias can start when a woman is as little as 13 pounds over her highest healthy weight.

“Our culture has enormous negativity toward overweight people, and doctors arent immune,” says Harvard Medical School professor Jerome Groopman, MD, author of How Doctors Think. “If doctors have negative feelings toward patients, theyre more dismissive, theyre less patient, and it can cloud their judgment, making them prone to diagnostic errors.”

With nearly 70 million American women who are considered overweight, the implications of this new information is disturbing, to say the least. Here, what you need to know to get the top-quality health care you deserve—no matter what you weigh.

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Ginny Graves
Last Updated: December 28, 2009

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