The Immediate Health Benefits of Losing Weight
December 12, 2022
More than 70 percent of adults in the U.S. are overweight. And most people are aware that carrying those extra pounds is detrimental to their overall health and wellness. But eating healthier and finding time to exercise can be tricky, so the weight gain often adds up over the months and years.
The good news is, it doesn’t take much to experience the health benefits of losing weight. Even losing a modest amount – just 5-10 percent of your total body weight – can result in almost immediate health benefits and reduce your risk for a wide variety of health conditions and diseases. In fact, almost every aspect of your health improves when you lose weight.
Cardiovascular Disease & Stroke. Excess weight is a key risk factor for coronary artery disease and stroke. Every pound of fatty (adipose) tissue in our body contains hundreds of feet of blood vessels that require oxygen and nutrients. So, the more fat you carry, the harder your heart has to work to pump blood to all the blood vessels in your body. This can lead to elevated blood pressure (hypertension).
Excess weight is also associated with clogged or narrowed arteries due to a buildup of plaque made up of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and other fatty substances. Narrowed arteries combined with hypertension greatly increases your risk for heart attack, heart failure and stroke.
Losing weight reduces the workload of the heart and can improve blood pressure and lower levels of LDL in your blood, ultimately reducing stress on your heart and lowering your risk of serious cardiovascular events.
Cancer. Although the exact link between excess weight and cancer is not known, many experts believe that fat accumulations around the vital organs may cause inflammation and contribute to the development of certain cancers, including breast, kidney, liver and pancreas.
Type 2 Diabetes. Excess body fat causes inflammation and interferes with the function of insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease in which insulin function is affected to the extent that blood sugar levels are consistently elevated. Over time, this can lead to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves. Even conservative weight loss can often improve insulin function and reverse or delay Type 2 diabetes.
Gallbladder Disease. Excess body weight, along with other genetic and lifestyle factors, is believed to be a major risk factor for the development of gallbladder disease, specifically gallstones. Sensible, gradual weight loss can reduce this risk.
Joint Pain. The stress of additional weight can accelerate how quickly knees and other joints wear down. As the smooth surface (cartilage) at the end of the bones wears away, it causes the joint to become stressed and inflamed, causing pain and stiffness. Losing weight reduces the pressure on the joints and can improve joint function; prevent or slow the progression of osteoarthritis of the knees and hips; and improve mobility.
Sleep Apnea. Carrying extra weight can increase fat deposits in the neck and lead to obstructive sleep apnea - a condition in which breathing is interrupted during sleep. Although losing weight won’t always cure the condition, losing just 10-15 percent of your body weight can improve sleep quality and reduce the frequency and severity of apnea episodes.
“It’s also important to note that getting 7-8 hours of good, quality sleep each night can help reduce weight. Too little sleep, coupled with stress, causes the body to release cortisol – a potent steroid that raises your blood pressure and blood sugar and causes weight gain,” says Babak Moini, MD, internal medicine specialist at University Hospitals.
Sexual Dysfunction. Some research shows that excess weight may affect certain sex hormones in the blood and lower sex drive. Losing weight may also increase your energy levels and self-confidence, both of which can have a favorable effect on intimacy.
Set Realistic Goals for Weight Loss
Losing weight can feel daunting, and requires planning and commitment. Starvation and gimmick diets are not effective over the long-term and can actually harm your health. Instead, take small steps towards improving your diet, increasing your exercise (walking is great), and taking an “everything in moderation” approach to your lifestyle in general. “Weigh yourself once a week, track your progress and remember: you didn’t gain the weight overnight and you won’t lose it overnight. Be patient with yourself and give it time. You’re on a journey, not a sprint, toward a healthier life and reducing your risk for a wide range of health problems,” adds Dr. Moini.
University Hospitals is here to support your weight loss journey with nutrition counseling services, medically supervised non-surgical weight loss programs, and, for certain patients, weight loss surgery options through our bariatric surgery program.