How can weight affect your health?

People who maintain a normal weight are helping their own health. But they are also in the minority. Among U.S. adults, 35% are overweight - and an additional 30% are obese. The problem isn't limited to adults. About 16% of children and teenagers in the United States are overweight. That's 2-3 times what the rate was in 1980.

Excess weight does more than add inches to your waistline. It seriously affects your health. Excess weight or obesity:

  • Raises LDL or low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol)
  • Lowers HDL or high density lipoprotein (good cholesterol)
  • Raises blood pressure
  • Can lead to diabetes

All of the factors listed above increase you risk of heart and blood vessel conditions. In addition, excess weight can contribute to coronary artery disease (CAD), heart attack, and stroke.

Aside from the heart and blood vessel conditions, excess weight can also lead to the following:

  • Arthritis- the added weight is hard on your joints
  • Diabetes
  • Gallbladder disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Some cancers- endometrial, breast, uterine, esophagus, kidney, colon

What you can do

First, become aware of your eating patterns. Loading up on calories is easier today than it was decades ago for the following reasons.

Meal Sizes- portions are bigger, both at home and especially in restaurants.

Fat Content- restaurants and ready to eat meals are often high in fat.

Sodas- we drink a lot more sugary beverages.

Snacking- we eat more high-fat snacks.

In addition, check whether you get enough exercise to burn up the calories you eat. Both children and adults are less physically active than they use to be. They sit more now- to use the computer, play video games, or watch TV.

Think about how lifestyle choices are tied to habit or behavior. If you get used to not exercising or eating large portions, it can take time to change those behaviors - but it can be done. Here are some tips that may help you set you goals and change your old habits:

  • Get into exercise. Do at least 30 minutes of strenuous exercise most days of the week, and preferably daily.
  • Avoid fad diets
  • Eat slowly, and notice when your hunger is satisfied. Then stop.
  • Talk to a dietician or nurse about foods to choose and foods to avoid. Also ask how to prepare healthier foods.
  • Eat smaller servings, and don't go back for seconds
  • When you eat out, make low-fat choices. Then take doggy bags home from restaurants-where the portions are very large- and save them for the next meal.
  • Tell your family and friends about your plans, ask them to help you reach you goal. Let them know how they can help.