Why is a healthy weight important?
Evidence shows that maintaining a healthy weight can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, and many different cancers.
People usually associate this with obesity and weight loss, but it can also be a problem if you are underweight. Maintaining a healthy balance will help you to live a healthy and longer life.
Problems associated with being overweight
Around 63% of the population, that is 3 out of 5 adults are at increased risk of serious diseases and becoming ill because of being overweight.
If you’re overweight or obese, your risk of developing associated health problems may be increased. These include conditions such as:
- coronary heart disease
- high blood pressure
- type 2 diabetes
- some types of cancer
- sleep apnoea
- male and female fertility problems
- lower back pain
Problems associated with being underweight
Being underweight may be caused by not getting enough of the right nutrients in your diet. This can also increase your risk of certain health problems, such as:
- reduced muscle strength
- increased risk of illnesses and infections
- increased risk of some heart conditions
- fertility problems
- slower wound healing.
What is a healthy weight?
A healthy weight is a range that statistically is associated with a low risk of weight-related diseases and health issues.
Whilst healthy weight guidelines have been developed at population levels, each person’s healthy weight range will vary and depend on factors such as age, sex, genetics, body frame, existing medical history, lifestyle habits, and weight as a young adult.
It is important to note that weight is only one of many determinants of health and wellbeing.
Whilst each person’s healthy weight range differs, globally, we use a measurement called Body Mass Index (BMI), which refers to weight standardised for height.
BMI is often used as a measure of health risk. Although it does not measure body fat or body composition directly, research has shown BMI to correlate closely with other methods that directly measure body fat.
There are four main BMI categories that a person may fall into based on their weight and height: underweight, healthy weight, overweight and obesity.
A healthy weight is defined as having a BMI of between 18.5-24.9 kg/m2. What this means is that based on a person’s height and weight, their BMI falls within a range considered to represent the most optimal for positive health and with the least risk of ill health.
The body mass index (BMI) is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out if your weight is healthy. There is a BMI healthy weight calculator on the NHS website via the link below.
What causes weight gain?
Did you know that your weight is influenced by your genes?
Being physically active has vast health and wellbeing benefits, as well as reducing the chances of developing heart disease, some types of cancer, and mental health concerns. Physical activity is a key element of weight control and health.
People respond differently to stress, for instance, some people may eat more, and others eat less. It can also impact the types of food that we choose to consume. You may have heard some people say they prefer sweet or savory foods. Chronic stress can lead to unhealthy eating habits, where elevated cortisol levels can cause increased cravings for ‘comfort’ foods that are highly processed snacks or sweets, as well as a reduced motivation to prepare or cook balanced meals or even forgetting to eat.
Stress can also lead to disrupted sleep patterns, which can also lead to an increased consumption of caffeine or high-calorie sugary snacks to boost energy.
Research suggests that there is a link between how much people sleep and how much they weigh.
In general, children and adults who get too little sleep tend to weigh more than those who get enough sleep.
Benefits of maintaining a healthy weight
Having a healthy weight can give you more energy, keep your heart healthy and help you sleep better.
There are other reasons such as:-
- It might improve your mood and your self-confidence
- It can increase your energy levels and you feel less tired
- It may make it easier for you to move around and be physically active
- It will reduce your risk of developing health problems like high blood pressure, cancer and heart and circulatory diseases
- Reducing weight benefits joints because the body has less weight to carry around. While it isn’t possible to regrow worn cartilage, losing weight can prevent further damage.
Let’s take a tour around the body to see the impact of weight loss on your organs.
According to the NHS being overweight increases the risk of blood vessels becoming clogged with cholesterol and excess weight squeezing the arteries. All this results in high blood pressure and means the heart must pump harder and faster than usual. Losing weight helps to alleviate this and blood vessels can become less constricted.
Some studies show that weight gain can cause a spike in the body’s cytokines which causes systemic inflammation. If the brain becomes inflamed various cognitive and behavioural symptoms may ensue such as shortfalls in memory.
If you lose weight you will improve your memory, attention, executive functions, linguistic abilities and motor speed.
It is important to consider the amount of fat around your liver. Fatty liver disease is a condition that impedes the bodies’ ability to produce bile for digestion and store iron for proper blood oxygenation.
Losing weight can reduce the amount of pressure placed on the chest and diaphragm, making it easier to breathe and reduces the risk of respiratory issues such as asthma and sleep apnea.
It will also improve lung capacity and mean that you get more oxygen around your body.
High blood pressure is the leading cause of chronic liver disease which can lead to kidney failure and the need for dialysis or a transplant.
Obesity can lead to colon inflammation which may result in a polyp or tumour if left untreated.
Being overweight can hinder the pancreas’ ability to produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels, potentially leading to type 2 diabetes. Losing weight can both prevent and reverse pancreatic damage.
Need help to manage your weight?
Get support local to you
If you wish to make a referral into the Feel Good Suffolk service, your Feel Good Suffolk Advisor can support you to access information contained on this website or community assistance local to you.
They can also advise you on the eligibility criteria for more intensive levels of support around managing a healthy weight, stopping smoking and being more active.