Wanting to look good is a big reason many people try to lose weight. If that motivates you to take better care of yourself, great! But there are more significant reasons for losing extra weight.
Losing even 3 to 5 percent of your weight and keeping it off has benefits. Dropping a lot of weight and maintaining the loss may offer even more. Some benefits may include:
- Cut your risk of heart disease. Weight loss may improve cholesterol levels and blood flow, making it easier for your heart to move blood efficiently through your body. This lowers your chances of heart disease, the nation's No. 1 cause of death.
- Lower your chances of having a stroke. When you're overweight, your arteries may become hard, narrow or blocked due to a buildup of a waxy substance called plaque. Blood clots can form in the vessels that carry blood to your brain. Your risk for stroke rises when you're overweight.
- Improve your blood pressure. Being overweight makes it more likely you'll have high blood pressure. This puts extra stress on your blood vessels. That can lead to serious health problems.
- Avoid or manage diabetes. Most people with type 2 diabetes are overweight. Diabetes can lead to kidney and heart disease, blindness, amputations and early death. Losing weight can improve your blood sugar levels and may help you prevent or manage diabetes.
- Cut your cancer risk. The link between gaining weight as an adult and some cancers isn't fully understood. It's possible that fat cells release hormones that can lead to abnormal cell growth. More study is needed. But losing weight has been associated with lower risk of cancer of the colon, breast, lining of the uterus and gallbladder.
- Improve blood fats. Abnormal blood fats include high levels of triglycerides and LDL ("bad") cholesterol and low levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol. Overweight people are more likely to have abnormal blood fats, which can lead to heart disease.
- Reduce sleep apnea. With sleep apnea, your breathing pauses during sleep. Someone with sleep apnea may have more fat stored around the neck. This can narrow the airway, making it hard to breathe.
- Avoid osteoarthritis. This condition causes joint pain and stiffness. Being overweight places more pressure on joints and cartilage, causing excess wear and tear. Plus, body fat might cause inflammation of the joints.
- Ward off liver and gallbladder diseases. If you have fatty liver disease, losing weight may improve liver tests and reverse the disease somewhat. Obesity can contribute to reduced kidney function. Losing weight also may help slow the progression of chronic kidney disease. Being overweight raises the risk of developing gallstones. Gallstones, rock-like formations that can cause sharp pains in the back and stomach, are made mostly of cholesterol.
- Increase overall well-being. Losing weight and being physically active may help improve your energy and mobility. Exercise may help cut down on stress, increase bone strength and muscle tone, and improve sleep. Losing weight can cut your risk of diabetes, heart disease, unhealthy cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. You may even save on health costs and have a more positive outlook on life. So … what's stopping you?
Created on 09/09/2004
Updated on 09/10/2014
- National Diabetes Education Program. Session 5: Move those muscles.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. What are the health risks of overweight and obesity?
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Weight-control Information Network. Do you know some of the health risks for being overweight?
- 2013 AHA/ACC/TOS Guideline for the management of overweight and obesity in adults: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association task force on practice guidelines and The Obesity Society.