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Healthy Weight Loss

Most people will struggle with their body weight at some point during their lifetime. It could be a lingering ten or twenty pounds that never seems to stay away once it's lost, or perhaps weight that has been slowly increasing over the years thanks to the harried lifestyle that's been keeping you from exercising or eating as well as you should. Because of the way our metabolism slows as we age, weight loss can become more and more difficult. Being overweight or becoming obese can begin to impact a person's physical health and well-being, as well. Doctors have shown that even losing ten pounds can great improve a person's overall health and increase their longevity. There are certainly ways to lose weight on one's own, but sometimes, it can be very difficult to get started on the right path.

What is Considered Overweight?

Statistical studies that consider a person's weight relative to their height has provided a standard called the body mass index (BMI). All of our organs are generally proportional to our body size, and are thus designed to support only a certain amount of body weight. If our body mass exceeds this, it may begin to pose health risks, putting major stress on our cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

The formula for BMI is weight (in pounds) multiplied by 703, and then divided by the height squared (in inches). For people with "normal" weights, the BMI calculation will fall into the 18.5-25 range, and anything above it is considered overweight. BMI's of 27.6 and above indicate obesity, with 40 and above being considered morbidly obese.

One flaw of the BMI calculation is that it does not consider body composition. Athletes that have high muscle mass, for example, may find themselves technically overweight by these standards, because muscle is denser and weighs more than fat tissues. Children and the elderly tend to have lower bone densities, so different modes of categorization should be considered for them. Some people also have naturally larger or smaller body frames that comfortably accommodate weight in different ranges. Thus, this BMI number alone should not necessarily be considered, though it is a useful standard for getting a general sense of how much weight a person's body can support and remain in good health. The World Health Organization also uses BMI statistics to measure general health trends in the population, given the ease with which the numbers can be attained. Obviously, normal body weight is not necessarily equated to having good health (if this body weight is maintained through smoking or excessive use of stimulants, for example), but it is a general guideline to be considered in the quest for attaining healthy body weight.

Risks of Being Overweight

There are numerous health complications that can arise from being overweight or obese. Carrying excessive weight can put a person at substantial risk for developing heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke due to the extra demands on the cardiovascular system. Our heart is responsible for pumping oxygenated blood through our bodies to all of our organs, and additional body mass means additional stress put on the heart muscle. If the obesity has developed in part due to fatty, high cholesterol diets, deposits that form in the blood vessels and heart can significantly hinder blood flow to all the organs, as well, gradually causing them to fail.

Obesity, particularly around the waist line, can also lead to the development of diabetes. The fat cells in these tissues secrete hormones called adipokines that can impair tolerance to glucose, leading to the blood sugar imbalances associated with diabetes.

The additional weight that a person carries can also put significant stress on their joints, causing the tissues that support the joints to degenerate. This form of arthritis, osteoarthritis, may or may not be accompanied by inflammation, but it is still painful and can make it very difficult for a person to walk or even stand.

People that are obese or overweight are also more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea, a sleep disorder in which breathing is interrupted during the night. Increased amounts of tissue in the airways may put pressure on them, causing them to briefly close and block breathing for several breaths until the person awakens. Although these apnea episodes may not be remembered, they can be disruptive enough to a person's natural sleep cycles that they begin to suffer from exhaustion during the daytime, never feeling fully refreshed after a night's sleep. Asthma and other respiratory problems may also develop if breathing is constantly labored due to extra weight on the lungs.

Obesity can also result in a variety of gastrointestinal disorders, including acid reflux (due to extra weight on the stomach), hernias, and gallstones. Fatty liver disease, which is related to the insulin resistance that develops under diabetic conditions, can also develop and disturb proper liver function. Obesity also increases the risks of developing erectile dysfunction, incontinence, and kidney failure.

Hormonal imbalances may also result from the metabolic imbalances that develop in obesity, resulting in menstrual problems, polycystic ovaries, and infertility. Obesity can also introduce a number of health complications during pregnancy. In addition to the increased risks of developing gestational diabetes and hypertension, there may also be an increased chance of birth defects or stillbirth.

Next Steps:

Poor health can significantly affect your life. Improve your life by changing to good health. Call our patient coordinator at 1-212-679-9667 or click on Request an Appointment to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors for evaluation and testing.

We are located at: Patients Medical PC, 800 Second Avenue, Suite 900 (Between 42nd & 43rd Street), Manhattan, NYC, New York, NY 10017.



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Article Last Updated: 08/26/2015