Keeping your weight down is not just for looks.
Most Americans are aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy weight. Yet for many, the focus is on the cosmetic benefits of staying trim. Looking good to ourselves, being attractive to others and fitting into a stylish wardrobe are among the perceived benefits of keeping our weight down. However, the most important benefit is often overlooked—that maintaining an optimal weight can prevent or lessen the symptoms of many health problems, especially as we age.
Arthritis (Joint Pain)
Excess weight puts stress on the body’s joints, including the knees, feet, hips and lower back. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, every 2-pound weight increase elevates one’s risk of developing arthritis by 9 percent to 13 percent. Conversely, weight loss can actually reduce joint pain and swelling for those who already have arthritis.
As weight increases, so does blood pressure. In fact, people with high blood pressure who are overweight can lower it simply by losing weight. High blood pressure puts strain on the heart by making it work harder to push blood through the blood vessels. High blood pressure can lead to stroke by damaging the arteries that carry blood to the brain. It can also lead to kidney failure, especially in those who also have type 2 diabetes.
Several cancers (colon, esophagus, kidney and uterine cancers) are more prevalent in people who are overweight. Women who are overweight are also at greater risk for breast cancer after menopause. Although we don’t know why, it is believed that fat cells release hormones that affect cell growth, leading to cancer.
Depression and Mental Health
Studies confirm a reciprocal link between being overweight and experiencing depression. This not only means that being overweight increases the risk of depression but that people who suffer from depression are at risk of becoming overweight. Those at greatest risk for weight-related depression are people who are very obese. This finding suggests that the difficulty of fitting into a society intolerant of obesity may be a contributing factor in the development of depression.
One of the most dangerous consequences of being overweight is the development of type 2 diabetes, also known as obesity related diabetes. People who are overweight are twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes can lead to heart problems and kidney failure if not controlled. The good news is that the condition is sometimes reversible with weight loss.
There are many risk factors for heart disease that are beyond our control, including gender, ethnicity and family history. However, the maintenance of a healthy body weight through proper diet and physical activity is among the most important controllable factors.
For every excess pound of fat, your heart has to send blood through another mile of blood vessels. Additionally, overweight people typically have higher blood cholesterol that can narrow or clog their arteries. This condition reduces or cuts off blood supply to the heart or brain, which could lead to heart attack or stroke.
Many other health problems are associated with weight gain, including sleep apnea, gallbladder disease, varicose veins and pregnancy complications. What is most important, however, is that we do our best to maintain a healthy weight. It is never too late to take incremental steps toward weight control.