What Effect Does Weight Have On Your Health?

Health Minute

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Getting to a healthy weight and staying there is not a short-term endeavor. It’s about adopting a lifestyle that includes a healthy diet, physical activity and balancing the number of calories you consume with the number of calories you burn.

If you've been thinking about your current weight, it may be because your clothes aren’t fitting or you are getting out of breath going up the stairs. Or maybe your doctor told you that you have high blood pressure or high cholesterol and that excessive weight could be a contributing factor. The first step is to determine if your current weight is healthy.

Body Mass Index

One way to learn if your weight is in a healthy range is to calculate your body mass index (BMI). It is calculated based on your height and weight. BMI provides a reliable indicator of body fat for most people and is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems.

  • If your BMI is less than 18.5, it is in the "underweight" range.
  • If your BMI is 18.5 to 24.9, it is in the "normal" or healthy weight range.
  • If your BMI is 25.0 to 29.9, it is in the "overweight" range.
  • If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, it is in the "obese" range.

"Underweight", "normal", "overweight", and "obese" are labels for weight ranges. Obese and overweight describe ranges of weight greater than what is considered healthy for a given height, while underweight describes a weight that is lower than what is considered healthy. If your BMI falls outside the "normal" or healthy weight range, talk to your doctor about how to achieve a healthier body weight.

Obesity and being overweight have been shown to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems.
BMI is a tool but not necessarily an indicator of a person’s health. Your doctor should perform appropriate health assessments to evaluate your health status and risks.

Find out your BMI

Waist Measurement

Another way to assess your weight is to measure your waist. Your waistline may be telling you that you have a higher risk of developing obesity-related conditions if you are:

  • A man whose waist circumference is more than 40 inches
  • A non-pregnant woman whose waist circumference is more than 35 inches

Risk Factors of Excess Weight

Excessive abdominal fat is serious because it places you at greater risk for developing obesity-related conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease. Individuals who have excessive abdominal fat should consult with their physician to develop a weight loss plan.

Overweight and obese individuals are at increased risk for many diseases and health conditions, including the following:

  • Hypertension
  • Dyslipidemia (high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Some cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)
  • Liver and Gallbladder disease

The National Cancer Institute warns that obesity is associated with increased risks of the following cancer types, and possibly others as well:

  • Esophagus
  • Pancreas
  • Colon and rectum
  • Breast (after menopause)
  • Endometrium (lining of the uterus)
  • Kidney
  • Thyroid
  • Gallbladder

One study estimated that in 2007 in the U.S., about 34,000 new cases of cancer in men (4 percent) and 50,500 in women (7 percent) were due to obesity. The percentage of cases attributed to obesity varied widely for different cancer types but was as high as 40 percent for some cancers, particularly endometrial cancer and esophageal cancer.

In the U.S. most of us are overweight but for those individuals whose BMI classifies them as “underweight”, there are significant risk factors for them. For example the lower a woman's BMI the more likely she is to be undernourished. Women who are underweight prior to pregnancy are at a higher risk for having a low birth weight infant, fetal growth problems, perinatal mortality and other pregnancy complications. People who are significantly underweight also have these risks:

  • Anemia and nutrient deficiencies
  • Bone loss and osteoporosis
  • Heart irregularities and blood vessel diseases
  • Amenorrhea (loss of periods for women)
  • Increased vulnerability to infection and disease
  • Delayed wound healing

Your weight is the result of many factors. You can't change some factors, such as family history. However, you can change other factors, such as your lifestyle habits.

Follow a healthy eating plan and keep your calorie needs in mind. Be physically active and try to limit the amount of time that you're inactive. Being a healthy weight is much more than smaller dress size, it’s all about your health.

If you are looking to lead a healthier lifestyle, talk to your physician about putting an individualized health plan together.

It's easy to get the care you need.

See a Premier Physician Network provider near you.