Losing excess weight is beneficial for two reasons: It can make you feel better and it lowers your risk for illness and helps you live a longer, healthier life. Weight loss helps health conditions that often go hand-in-hand with obesity, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, esophageal reflux, arthritis, fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, and depression. It also raises levels of beneficial high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the so-called “good” cholesterol. Especially encouraging is that you don’t have to lose a tremendous amount of weight to become healthier.
Even a modest weight loss of 5-10% of your starting weight can lead to significant health benefits. In one study, people with hypertension who lost 10 pounds over six months reduced their systolic blood pressure by 2.8 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and their diastolic blood pressure by 2.5 mm Hg. These reductions in blood pressure were equivalent to the reductions brought about by treatment with blood pressure medications. Weight loss is so effective that many people with high blood pressure can stop taking blood pressure medicine after they lose weight.
Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted two 12-year studies of overweight adults – one of men, the other of women – to find out whether intentional weight loss is associated with a decrease in mortality. The study of 43,457 women, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 1995, found that any amount of intentional weight loss was beneficial. The authors reported a 20% reduction in premature deaths among women with obesity-related medical disorders who intentionally lost some weight. In this group, the most dramatic effects were a 40-50% decrease in deaths from obesity-related cancers and a 30-40% decline in deaths from type 2 diabetes. The study of 49,337 men, published in the same journal in 1999, found a 32-36% decline in deaths from diabetes among men with health problems who intentionally lost weight.
Weight loss helps to fight hypertension, prevent diabetes, reduce cancer risks, and increases longevity. If you don’t lose weight, you have a lot to lose.