Weight Control Essential
By Allan Nelson, M.D., Pentwater Family Practice
to Good Health
About the DoctorAllan Nelson, M.D., is a family practice physician and member of the board of trustees of Memorial Medical Center. He founded Pentwater Family Practice in 1980. He earned his medical degree from Wayne State University School of Medicine and his bachelor of science from Alma College. He is board certified by the American Board of Family Practice.
Allan Nelson, M.D., 231-869-7051
The latest numbers on Americans’ weight are in, and they’re pretty heavy. About one-third of adults now qualify as obese and more than 60 percent of adults in the U.S. are either overweight or obese. Those figures have risen sharply over the last decade. What’s more, we’re putting on more pounds at younger ages, increasing the amount of time this extra baggage will weigh on our health.
Weight gain, for most people, is not a mystery. It happens when energy from the food we eat exceeds the energy spent in daily activities. The high fat and calorie content of fast foods is at least partly to blame for extra pounds. And certain conveniences—such as remote controls and computers—have made it easier to be inactive.
Health Dangers of Excess WeightMaintaining a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do for your health. Being overweight or obese can significantly raise your risk for many conditions and diseases, including:
- Heart disease. The risk for several forms of heart disease—including heart attack, congestive heart failure, angina, and abnormal heart rhythm—increases in people who are overweight.
- High blood pressure. Hypertension is twice as common in people who are overweight as those who maintain a healthy weight.
- Diabetes. More than 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. Diabetes is a major cause of premature death, stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, and blindness. See page four for more on diabetes.
- Cancer. Being overweight or obese raises the risk for cancers of the uterus, colon, gallbladder, prostate, and kidney, as well as breast cancer after menopause.
- Osteoarthritis. Excess weight puts more pressure on knees, hips, and the lower back, causing pain.
- Metabolic syndrome. This group of risk factors linked with being overweight raises the risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Benefits of a Healthy WeightAccording to the U.S. Surgeon General, the benefits of losing weight if you are overweight or obese are clear. They include a reduced risk for all the diseases listed previously. Even if you are considerably overweight, improving your health is possible. For example, by losing even 5 to 10 percent of total body weight can reduce your risk of heart disease. Plus, if you already have certain conditions, weight loss can help you manage them.
Weight Loss StrategyExperts advise losing weight gradually—1 to 2 pounds per week. The best way to lose—and keep off—weight is to make lasting healthier changes in your exercise and eating habits. Pounds shed quickly aren’t likely to stay off. Plus, rapid weight loss can cause health problems, including gout, nutrient deficiencies, and gallstones.
Eating a wide variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, and grains, is key. So is limiting sugar, fatty foods, and alcohol. Your doctor can help you come up with a safe and healthy eating strategy based on your health history, body type, and weight-loss goals. The best approach to weight loss also includes regular exercise. You should ask your doctor to help you plan a sensible workout routine. This is especially important if you haven’t exercised in a long time or if you have health problems.
Other smart lifestyle choices—such as keeping a food diary—also can help. When diet and exercise have not worked, doctors may prescribe medications or, as a last resort, bariatric surgery—reducing or bypassing the stomach. For most people, however, good nutrition and sensible exercise are the keys to a healthier life.
All of the above comes down to one irrefutable bottom line: being overweight is bad for you. Regardless of what roadmap you follow, getting to the goal of losing weight and keeping it under control is essential to your good health.