Obesity | Risk Factors


Are there risk factors for obesity?

The main risk factor for obesity is overeating, or eating more calories than your body burns. Calories are the amount of energy in the food you eat. Some foods have more calories than others. For example, foods that are high in fat and sugar are also high in calories. If you eat more calories than your body uses, the extra calories will be stored as body fat. Other risk factors that contribute to obesity include:

  • Age
  • Being physically inactive
  • Genetics (obesity can run in families)
  • Poor sleeping habits
  • Pregnancy
  • Quitting smoking

There are some medical conditions and medicines that make it difficult to maintain a healthy body weight or to lose weight. If you think you have or have had any of the conditions or medicines listed below, be sure to talk to your doctor. In some cases, specific treatments for your medical condition or a change in medicines can make a difference in your efforts to manage your weight.

Some Medical Conditions That May Make It Difficult to Lose Weight



Hormonal disorders

Polycystic ovary syndrome


Cushing’s disease





Cardiovascular disorders

Congestive heart failure


Idiopathic hypertrophic cardiomyopathy


Heart valve disorders

Sleep disorders

Obstructive sleep apnea


Upper airway resistance syndrome

Eating disorders



Carbohydrate craving syndrome

Medicines That May Cause Weight Gain

  • Antihistamines, alpha blockers (allergies)
  • Beta blockers, methyldopa (high blood pressure)
  • Insulin, sulfonylureas (diabetes)
  • Lithium (manic-depressive illness)
  • Neuroleptics (schizophrenia)
  • Progestins (endometriosis)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (depression)
  • Valproate (epilepsy)


Funding and support for this material have been provided by VIVUS, Inc.


Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Created: 01/13