While it may be obvious to many that being overweight can cause shortness of breathe, for some it’s an unknown side affect of putting on extra weight over the holiday season. One that can literally stop you in your tracks.
Having had breathing problems for as long as I can remember being an asthmatic, it can be difficult to distinguish the difference between being short of air from general asthma or whether its a direct result of being too heavy.
But asthma aside, what I want to really look at is the correlation between being overweight and breathing difficulties. What does my weight have to do with my lung function?.
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The Weighty Matters of Respiratory Issues with Obesity
When something is breathtakingly beautiful, that is usually a very positive thing to experience and feel. In fact, a classic song by the band Berlin has echoed this sentiment with their hit called, Take My Breath Away.
However, if doing usual things like walking around the black, playing with your child, or going up and down a normal flight of stairs leaves you huffing and puffing, then that kind of breathless is simply a bad thing. People ought to be able to do these things without having to worry about falling flat on their face due to oxygen deprivation.
Being overweight is a key factor to consider if regular chores are leaving you gasping for air. It’s not how our bodies are designed to function. Breathing should be so easy anyone can do it.
But if you do find yourself being short of breath too much and too frequently, then your body might be warning you that something is amiss. Lack of oxygen in the body can result to dire consequences so this warning sigh should never be neglected. Unfortunately, one of the primary reasons for shortness of breath is associated with being overweight or obese.
The Heart Works Harder
We all know it, being overweight makes everything more difficult to achieve, including breathing. This is because our bodies have excessive weights to carry around all day long making the body continuously strain and work harder than it should.
It is akin to carrying a child on your back all day long without any form of reprieve. Ever tried walking up a hill with your child on your back the entire way?. It’s quite difficult, even for a someone in the correct BMI category. Shortness of breathe is assured and this is kind of how our bodies have to work constantly as someone in the obese BMI category.
This eventually takes a toll on your body, making your back hurt, making you feel irritable, and making you feel like there’s not enough air as you struggle to take your next breath. All this extra weight reduces your capacity to do things and it makes breathing more difficult than it should be.
Not only does your heart have to work harder, being overweight makes all your other organs work harder. Which is why there is many conditions that are greatly affected by your body weight.
However the additional body weight and layers of fat places a greater load on your cardiovascular system and shortness of breathe is just one side affect you can experience as a result. Causing your heart to work doubly hard day in and day out which can of course, eventually wear it out. And what makes this decreased lung function so scary is that one day, the lung might just decide to completely stop.
Obesity & The Adverse Effect on Organs
Many studies have indicated that possessing excess adipose tissues or fat cells in the body causes your organs to constrict. For instance, the added fat layers around the lungs or the diaphragm impairs their functionality. An excessive number of adipose tissue deposits make it difficult for the organs to expand and contract simply because fat takes up the space where they are supposed to be.
A study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine verified that excess weight lowers lung function, regardless of smoking history, age, or even body mass index.
Invasion Of Fat Cells
We all know that fat cells can cause serious harm, but when you think about it in a way other than the potential conditions they cause you get a better understanding as to why excessive weight is dangerous.
Picture your lungs and how they move in and out with every breath you take. Now imagine extra layers of fat surrounding the wall of the chest. It doesn’t leave much room for your lungs to function properly does it.
Being classified as obese or overweight can decrease the amount of room for the lungs to function 100%. These fat cells also contribute to the inflammation of tissues near it simply because its excessive presence is not normal. On top of that, imagine these same layers of fat surrounding your heart, making it struggle to do its work. The heart is a major organ of the body and if it conks out, everything will follow suit.
Fats Affects Important Respiratory Muscles
The very same overload of fat deposits pushes on the diaphragm, which is also another organ apart from the lungs that performs an important function in respiration or breathing. In fact its the most important muscle when it comes to respiratory. One you don’t want to mess with.
When there’s simply too much fat cells surrounding the diaphragm, it restricts the organ’s movement, especially when you bend over or lay down. What’s worse than being out of breath when you’re moving? It is struggling to breathe when you’re at rest. This is a very dangerous sign that something is wrong.
Even Belly Fat Affects The Heart & Your Breathing
The most common causes of shortness of breathe are the result of lung or heart problems. But did you know fat in the middle section has a drastic affect on your heart. So you don’t necessarily need to be obese to experience shortness of breath, a simple beer belly can be doing harm to your heart which can cause problems when breathing.
The visceral fat that found in your belly is down far enough that it can wrap itself around your vital organs. This type of fat is more dangerous than the typical fat found under your skin because it can interfere with the functionality of your organs. The impact a big belly can have include high blood pressure, inflammation and mess with your cholesterol levels.
The Vicious Cycle
As someone that is overweight it might be considered a good thing when more calories are burned with each given movement. But sadly this is not true. Because our bodies are using up more energy and working harder to perform regular day to day tasks more precious oxygen is used up.
Anytime an obese or overweight person exerts more effort, shortness of breath becomes even more pronounced due to the amount of oxygen needed to assist the body in working harder. I have seen this first hand with asthma and how being heavier affects the seriousness and longevity of an attack.
People who are overweight or obese suffering shortness of breath have decreased respiratory function, which can make exercise extremely difficult. Inadequate and shallow breathing common to their weight class dissuades people from moving or proceeding with their workouts. However this is even more dangerous because a lack of exercise only serves to weaken the respiratory and heart muscles even more.
Exercising Through The Cycle
This is the vicious cycle us heavier people face. Exercise more to increase health, but exercising more makes it harder to breathe. So what’s an obese person to do?. For me I found starting out on a suitable treadmill to be the best option.
As you can control the level of intensity therefor control your breathing. Just make sure you start out slow and don’t overdo it.
Another good steady form of exercise for an overweight person is with simple exercises using a balance ball. Nothing too intense but gets your body slowly moving.
Unfortunately, obesity and inactivity often go hand in hand. This weight problem puts people in a precarious situation because exercise is needed to lose weight.
Along with not moving comes a host of other problems like diabetes and high blood pressure that places the overweight person into a downward spiral of self-destruction. And this again begs the question: can being overweight cause shortness breath? It most definitely can. It can make the breath so short that it can eventually diminish and that is something I hope to never experience.
Steps to Take To Beat Shortness Of Breath
Let’s not wait until you have to take your very last breath in order to realize that this weighty issue is a huge problem. The time to start addressing this significant concern begins now. Shortness of breath can clearly not be disregarded because it snowballs and impacts the health in severe ways. Beginning a healthier diet and a workout program is a necessary step in the right direction.
As mentioned earlier, belly fat can drastically affect how you breathe. So the first step after visiting a doctor is usually to try and reduce some of this unhealthy fat. This can involve:
- Avoid foods making you fat. This includes high sugar foods like sodas, candy and chocolate.
- Monitor your calorie intake and reduce portion sizes. Small steps like this can go a long way.
- Eat healthier fats to reduce the chance of heart disease.
How To Improve Breathing When Overweight
Along with a healthy diet and exercise, breathing techniques can be done by overweight people so they can push forth with an exercise regimen. It may be difficult at first, but slowly building up stamina and endurance is the only way to get the job done. According to NCBI, learning how to master the Senobi breathing technique should be the first exercise treatment for an obese person.
As that saying goes, no pain no gain! Experiencing a little discomfort for future gains is something that must be tolerated. If it is really difficult, then some physicians prescribe supplements that can help alleviate things and assist you in performing activities.
Remember, a well conditioned body takes away the burden from the lungs, heart, and other organs. When their job to function is less taxing, then you can enjoy an even better quality of life. Health is the real wealth no amount of money can ever buy.