The Effects of Obesity on The Lungs
Obesity and excess weight have a profound effect on many parts of the human anatomy. While it is not always an obvious correlation, excess weight can cause significant lung function issues. While many of these issues are debilitating or even dangerous, losing fat and weight can improve or resolve them in a relatively short period of time.
Lower Functional Residual Capacity
Functional Residual Capacity or FRC is the amount of air left in a person’s lungs after they have exhaled normally. Excess weight and the resultant fat accumulation in the abdomen and rib cage can cause additional pressure within the abdomen. This causes the lungs to lose balance. The result is labored breathing that reduces the ability to perform strenuous activities. Even daily life, like walking, climbing stairs and lifting grocery bags may be difficult.
Obesity, in conjunction with sleep apnea, can also cause pulmonary hypertension (PH) also known as pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). This condition is diagnosed when elevation of blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries is found. This can cause significant ramifications including shortness of breath / labored breathing, fatigue and dizziness and there is currently no cure for the condition.
Finally, excess weight can cause pulmonary insufficiency, a condition whereby the pulmonary valve in the pulmonary artery allows blood to backflow into the right ventricle. The right ventricle may begin to get larger as it works to push the additional blood back to the lungs. The result can often require treatment to address any irregular heartbeat caused by the condition as well as surgical replacement of the valve in severe cases.
Lung function is significantly improved in many obese patients who go on to lose some or most of their excess weight, either through traditional diet and exercise for bariatric surgery. For some, however, the effects of obesity on the lungs may cause permanent reduction of lung function. However, as we know, nonsurgical forms of weight loss surgery for weight loss tend to be effective for only a short time while procedures such as bariatric surgery tend to offer longer-term improvement.