The motivation behind weight loss varies from person to person. It doesn’t matter whether your reason is aesthetic—wanting to fit into your skinny jeans — or the number on the scale going up. Weight loss undoubtedly improves self-esteem, making you more comfortable in your own skin and increasing your energy level. However, the greatest incentive doesn’t just come from the reflection in the mirror.
Losing only a modest amount, 5 to 7 percent of your body weight, can yield tremendous health benefits, prevent life threatening diseases, alleviate pain and discomfort, improve quality of life and help you live longer.
The next time you think that losing only 10 to 20 pounds doesn’t matter, think again. Every pound lost can add a moment in your life. Being obese as an adult, which is approximately 30 to 40 pounds overweight, takes away between three and 10 years off of your life. More than 33 percent of Americans are categorized as obese. By fostering weight loss, you can a live a longer, healthier and more fulfilled life, not to mention alleviate the threat or progression of some fatal diseases and conditions:
High Cholesterol LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, is a fat-like substance that is deposited along your arterial walls narrowing the arteries and eventually blocking them completely– leading to heart attack or stroke. Chronic chest pain and other cardiovascular problems are also be side effects of high levels of LDL. Incorporating a healthy diet into your lifestyle can lower cholesterol by more than 10 percent.
Hypertension, commonly referred to as high blood pressure, is caused by fat buildup in the arteries, narrowing the passageways and causing the heart to beat faster or more aggressively. Forcing the heart to worker harder can damage the blood vessels in the kidneys, resulting in eventual kidney failure. While hypertension is not a curable disease, it can be managed by reaching or maintaining a healthy weight. A large majority of individuals who modified their dietary habits and lost weight were able to reduce their blood pressure to normal levels and eventually completely stop taking prescription blood pressure medications.
Heart attack risk increases dramatically with weight gain. High blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes are all risk factors that increase the likelihood that you will suffer a heart attack. Just 10 pounds of weight loss can lower blood pressure, weaken excessive plaque buildup within the arteries and can result in a 50 percent reduced risk of heart attack. Even for those who have previously suffered a heart attack, making slight adjustments to your diet and exercise routine can decrease the risk of having another heart attack.
Stroke can similarly to a heart attack, the risk of stroke is increased by several factors associated with weight gain. High blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes are all risk factors that increase the likelihood that you can have a stroke. By better managing just one of these disease states, the threat of stroke can drop radically.
Diabetes, Type two specifically, occurs when the body’s sensitivity to insulin decreases in conjunction with the number on the scale. Even being 10 pounds overweight puts you at an increased risk for Type two diabetes. Left untreated, Type two diabetes can cause hypoglycemia, heart disease, nerve damage, amputation and vision problems. Controlling your weight is the most effective way to manage this mostly preventable disease. Through weight loss alone, symptoms can be almost completely eliminated and losing 10 pounds can result in a 60 percent decreased risk. As blood sugars normalize, many individuals no longer need insulin.
Joint and body pain are annoyances that many experience as they age, however this discomfort is amplified with every extra pound. Each pound puts 1.5 times the amount of stress on weight bearing joints. If you are 20 pounds overweight, that’s an additional 30 pounds of pressure on your knees. Such excessive force can lead to long term cartilage damage and arthritis. Studies have found that with only an 11 pound weight loss can reduce the risk of osteoarthritis by as much as 50 percent.
Cancer risk also decreases with moderate weight loss. There are several possible explanations as to why this happens. Obesity is associated with chronic low-level inflammation. Over time, this type of inflammation can cause cellular damage, which can lead to cancer. In addition, obesity can increase the risk for other diseases, such as reflux and gallstones, which will also increase the risk for cancer (esophageal and gall bladder, respectively). People who are obese tend to have hormonal abnormalities like increased estrogen and insulin-like growth factor -1 (IGF-1). Increased levels of these hormones can increase your risk for a number of cancers, including breast, endometrial, ovarian, colon, kidney, and prostate. Research continues, but several studies have shown that weight loss may decrease the risk for several types of cancer.
Sleep Apnea is a medical condition that occurs when the airway becomes blocked during sleep. This interrupts breathing many times during the night, which puts you at risk for several other medical complications. It is disproportionately found in people who are obese or overweight due to the presence of extra tissue in the throat or surrounding the airways. This extra tissue puts pressure on the airway, making it easier for breathing to become obstructed. Despite the availability of other medical treatments to manage the symptoms of sleep apnea, the American College of Physicians’ major recommendation in treatment sleep apnea is weight loss. Losing just 10% of body weight can have a significant effect on, and possibly even cure, sleep apnea. Relieving sleep apnea can reduce the risk of other serious medical conditions and can improve your quality of life.
A better sex life is another benefit that is often glossed over when discussing the health benefits associated with weight loss. Your quality of life is an important consideration when looking at the health benefits of weight loss. Many people—both men and women—who are obese also have some degree of sexual dysfunction. This can be caused by the hormonal changes associated with obesity, or even just some of the other risk factors associated with being overweight. In some cases, poor self esteem and anxiety can cause low libido and a reduced sex drive. The good news is that losing only 10% of body weight can actually improve sexual dysfunction and help you get your mojo back.
From added years to increased energy, decreased medical bills and a better sex life, there is a lot to gain from even just losing a little bit of weight. For more information on how you can start losing weight now and lower your risk of disease, contact your local Medifast Weight Control Center.