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The Health Benefits of Weight Loss

With the new year slowly approaching, one of the most popular New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. While most people start a weight loss program to look and feel better, many don’t realize the huge health benefits that can be achieved. Weight loss has been shown to decrease blood pressure, decrease blood sugar levels, decrease total cholesterol and triglycerides and raise the good (protective) cholesterol. Improving all these parameters may lower an individual’s risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), such as, lowering the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. The benefits go far beyond just lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease, it also decreases the incidence of depression, improves ones quality of life, physical functioning and mobility. Did you know that losing weight can improve or lower your risk of developing certain cancers too? The most common ones affected by weight loss are breast, prostate and colon cancer.

So how do we quantify if someone is overweight? Also if they are, how much does their weight impact the risk for any of the above medical conditions? The most widely use measurement in the medical industry today is the Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is calculated by simply taking an individual’s weight in kilograms divided by their height in square meters.

These are the categories of the BMI;

<25.0 kg/m2 = little or no associated increase risk for any medical problems

25 - 29.9 kg/m2 = low associated risk

30 - 34.9 kg/m2 = moderate risk

35 - 39.9 kg/m2 = high risk

>40.0 kg/m2 = very high risk

Mortality (the risk of dying from any cause) increases approximately 30% for every 5 point increase in the BMI once you pass the normal range (<25.0). So, obesity should be viewed as a facilitating factor for many medical conditions, ranging from heart disease to cancer. In fact, it can be viewed just as detrimental to your health as high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated total cholesterol and smoking.

The rising problem. Fast forward and just image what’s happening in the United States today, not only is there an epidemic of obesity in adults but more and more we are finding increasing rates of obesity in our children. The problem is that our children are exposing their bodies at a much earlier age to the detrimental effects of excessive weight gain. Hence, we are finding young children at our practice that already have what use to be considered primarily adult diseases, such as, type II diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension. Evidence exist that obesity in adolescence (visceral fat) is associated with an accelerated rate of arteriosclerosis (blockages forming in the arteries).

Knowing where one stands regarding their BMI is very important and will help you determine if you should take any action to help improve your health status or that of your child. It’s important to get evaluated by a qualified health care provider who can help guide you in regards to your BMI and other parameters that help us quantify risk. This is important because like everything in life, the BMI is not without its limitations. There are other measurements that help doctors determine health risk that may not be accurately found by the BMI. Two common measures are the percent body fat and the waist to hip ratio. These measurements help better quantify health risk when used together with the Body Mass Index. Based on your numbers you can start taking action to help lessen your future medical risk.

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