Lose Weight to Live Longer

Find out how shedding pounds increases your life span.
Lose Weight to Live Longer
If you needed one more fail-safe reason to lose weight, how about this: Losing weight in a healthy manner could actually increase your life span. You already know that being overweight can sap your energy, limit your daily activities and increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases. But did you know that obesity can take years off your life? According to a 2003 study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, obesity appears to shorten life expectancy, especially among younger adults.

Years of life lost
The Johns Hopkins study shows that men and women lose years of life when they are obese. Men are estimated to lose the most years. Black men with a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 45 (severely obese) are estimated to live 20 years fewer than black men with a BMI of 23 to 30. Severely obese white men aged 20 to 30 years were estimated to have a life span 13 years shorter than that of men with a BMI of 23 to 25. Obese white women fared a little better; they are estimated to live on average eight years fewer than those with a BMI of 23 to 25. A BMI greater than 45 had the least effect on black women; data showed that, on average, severe obesity shortened their lives by five years. In addition, other studies have shown compelling facts about the negative health effects of obesity:

  • Obesity increases the risk of illness and death associated with coronary heart disease.

  • Obesity contributes to, and complicates, type 2 diabetes.

  • More than three-quarters of all cases of high blood pressure are reportedly directly attributable to obesity.

  • Postmenopausal women who are obese have a higher risk of developing breast cancer.

The studies provide further evidence that obesity is an increasingly urgent health issue in America. According to an editorial by JoAnn E. Manson, MD, DrPH, and Shari S. Bassuk, ScD, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, "Obesity is associated with greater morbidity and poorer health-related quality of life than smoking, problem drinking or poverty."

What can you do?
There are some positive steps you can take to decrease obesity-related health risks.

  • Use our online assessment to determine your BMI. (A BMI of 30 or more is considered obese; 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight.)

  • If you are overweight or obese, know that losing just 10 percent of your body weight in a healthy manner can improve your health

  • If you need to lose weight, do so at a safe rate — 1/2 to 2 pounds per week

  • Be physically active: at least 30 minutes (adults) or 60 minutes (children) on most days of the week

  • Limit TV time to less than two hours a day

  • Eat sensible portion sizes
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