backup og meta

Risk Factors Of Obesity: It's Not All About Choices

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Pharmacology

Updated Jan 13, 2021

Risk Factors Of Obesity: It's Not All About Choices

The risk factors of obesity are more than just too many cups of rice or being a couch potato. Similarly, obesity is more complex than simply having a high body-mass index (BMI). Like other diseases, obesity has personal, environmental, and genetic factors that come into play. Does this mean some people are destined to become overweight or obese? Not necessarily. Read on to understand which risk factors are in your control and which are not.

The risk factors of obesity

Lifestyle choices

Your lifestyle has a large influence on your body and health. Something as simple as choosing a fresh side salad over a tray of fries can improve your energy levels for the day and waistline over time. Hitting the gym can get you in shape, but admittedly it’s not be for everyone. Instead, doing low-impact exercises and activities, such as taking the stairs over the elevator, is already a step in the right direction.

risk factors of obesity

While dieting and exercise is the most effective way to lose weight for many people, it is important to remember to take it slow and steady. Don’t be tempted to cut corners and do dangerous fad diets. You may lose weight at first, but this may only be temporary. The most sustainable way to manage your weight is to follow balanced diets and exercise plans with guidance from your doctor or nutritionist-dietitian.

risk factors of obesity

Other lifestyle choices that can increase your risk of obesity are:

Fortunately, lifestyle is largely a modifiable risk factor. While it may be hard to break old habits or adopt new ones, it is well worth the effort to improve your health.

risk factors of obesity

Genetic factors

Why do some people seem to gain weight easily while others stay slim no matter what they eat? It may seem unfair, but genetics play a major role in many aspects of our health.

Take a look at your parents, siblings, and extended family members. More often than not, you will notice more similarities than differences in your height, body composition, and even appearance. Genetics even influence the medical conditions we develop which, unlike appearances, cannot easily be changed with a bit of makeup.

Genetics are determined by our DNA, which come from our parents. Our genes encode every detail of our bodies and can serve as a predictor for diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, Alzheimer dementia, and even obesity.

If genetics determine our appearance and health risks, does that mean we are stuck with the cards we are dealt? Not necessarily. While genetics can provide a roadmap to our bodies, our choices navigate the journey.

There is not enough evidence to show that there is a single gene responsible for obesity. However, there are genes that make people more likely to overeat, store fat, and develop insulin resistance, all of which can contribute to unwanted weight gain. You may need to work harder to overcome these obstacles but it is not impossible with help from your doctor.

Preexisting conditions

Being obese puts you at risk of developing other diseases and vice versa. Preexisting conditions that can increase the risk of obesity include:

Common Misconceptions About Obesity

Other non-modifiable risk factors of obesity


Age is more than just a number. Whether we like it or not, as we age, our metabolism tends to slow down and our bodies become less limber. There is no specific age wherein a person is more likely to become obese, as there is a steady increase in childhood obesity.

While we can’t turn back the hands of time, getting adequate rest and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can keep you feeling young and energetic.

Biological sex

Our sex at birth can influence the development of certain diseases. For example, women normally have more body fat than males, however, men are more likely to store unhealthy fat around the waist. As mentioned previously, conditions like PCOS can contribute to weight gain and obesity, and is a condition that only affects biological women. But remember that biological sex is only one of many factors that can influence your risk of becoming obese.


Similar to genetics, our ethnic backgrounds can predispose us to certain diseases and conditions. The risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and other diseases is higher in certain races and ethnic groups than others.

In America, those of African and Hispanic descent have higher rates of obesity and diabetes regardless of sex. Asian men and women generally have lower BMIs and smaller statures than other races, but may carry more abdominal fat, which is a risk factor for obesity and heart disease.

Socioeconomic factors

While often overlooked, socioeconomic factors greatly influence our overall health. Access to clean water, living in a neighborhood that is safe to walk in, and earning enough to afford fresh produce (instead of canned or processed food) can make it easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Socioeconomic factors may be hard to change overnight, but understanding your limitations can make planning easier.

Healthy, Tasty Food You Can Swap for Junk Food

Key takeaways

In summary, obesity is not simply a consequence of “being lazy’ or lacking motivation. Even seemingly-healthy individuals can become obese later in life due to a variety of risk factors. While things like genetics and ethnicity cannot be changed, obesity can be managed through diet, exercise, medications, and surgery (in more extreme cases). Talk to your doctor to create an individualized health and lifestyle plan.

Learn more about Healthy Eating here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Written by

Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD


Updated Jan 13, 2021

advertisement iconadvertisement

Was this article helpful?

advertisement iconadvertisement
advertisement iconadvertisement