Being significantly overweight or obese has high physical and financial costs – especially if you have arthritis. Extra pounds put pressure on joints and increases inflammation.

It also boosts the risk of diabetes and heart disease, two conditions commonly linked with arthritis. In fact, it even increases the risk of developing arthritis in the first place.

Weighing 50 to 100 more pounds than you should is also staggeringly expensive, says Jeff Helton, PhD, assistant professor of Health Care Management at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

The Big-picture Economic Costs

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, in 2008 the national medical care costs related to obesity (having a body mass index of 30 and more) were $147 billion. If obesity, now classified as a disease by the American Medical Association, remains unchecked, costs could rise an additional $48 to $66 billion by 2030.

“A lot of the costs are associated with the conditions that come along with obesity like osteoarthritis, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease,” says Helton.

The Direct Costs

There are also high direct costs to the overweight person with arthritis. For instance, obesity can lead to more painful joints – which requires more treatment, from medications to joint replacement. And that’s if an obese person can get a surgeon to agree to do the joint replacement.

“Many orthopedic specialists are reluctant to operate on patients with a BMI more than 35; the complication rate and risk of the replacement not lasting are major concerns,” says Mitchell Roslin, MD, Chief of Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery, Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Obesity also raises life insurance and worker’s compensation premiums. “A person who has arthritis and is obese may be unsteady in gait and have a work-related injury as a result. That drives up premiums,” says Helton.

Individually, a person who is obese can expect to pay about $1,400 to $1,500 more per year for health care than someone of normal weight, says Helton.

The Indirect Costs

“Some of the biggest are lost income and productivity. Obesity drives absenteeism. And obese people may be at work but struggling,” says Helton. “For instance, fatigue may cause someone to tune out in a quasi-sleep state.” And if a job requires a lot of physical activity, an obese person won’t be able to handle that as well as someone who is slim, he says.

If the high cost to your wallet and joints hasn’t yet convinced you to take action, this might: People who are very overweight have shorter-than-normal lifespans. “They may die 20 to 25 years earlier than they might if they were healthy,” says Helton.

How to Start Losing Weight

So where do you start on your journey to losing significant weight loss? Start with your doctor. He may help you find a diet and exercise program that’s right for you, or recommend (in addition to diet and exercise) bariatric surgery or diet medications. But until you can get an appointment – start moving more and eating less (or at least less of the unhealthy stuff). You can’t afford to wait.