Written by Solaade Ayo-Aderele - Nigeria
When we talk about the need to lose weight, many people erroneously think it's for aesthetic purposes. Of course, the beauty world gives the impression that the only way a person can earn a pride of place in films, product advertisements and so many other endeavours is to be trim and gorgeous. That's why most villainous roles are usually reserved for the fat and not-so-attractive persons.
But beyond physical beauty, physicians are now saying that keeping low and healthy weight is the way to go if you hope to live a healthy life. What are the benefits accruable from having healthy weight? Read on…
Reduced cancer risk
Professor of Oncology at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Lagos, Remi Ajekigbe, warns that there's a link between unruly weight and cancer risk. He says being overweight or obese is a risk factor for several types of cancer.
Indeed, researchers say although a higher weight may not necessarily cause cancer, "maintaining a healthy weight is thought to be associated with a lower risk of many chronic diseases, including cancer."
Family Physician, Dr. Tade Olakunle, says individuals who are heavyweight definitely have more fat tissue that can produce hormones such as insulin or oestrogen, either of which may cause cancer cells to thrive.
Even where an individual has survived a cancer, Olakunle counsels, s/he must endeavour to keep weight gain at bay, because though a cancer may reoccur with or without weight gain, the likelihood of recurrence is higher with uncontrolled weight gain.
The type of cancers that can be influenced by weight gain include breast cancer (in menopausal women), colon and rectum, uterine, kidney, aesophageal, pancreatic, endometrium (lining of the uterus), thyroid and gallbladder.
So, in order to reduce your risks for cancer, work on your weight.
Better heart health
A cardiologist, Dr. Rahman Ismail, says being obese can raise blood cholesterol and put you at a higher risk for health problems such as heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Ismail says as your waistline threatens to break the scale, so does your risk for coronary heart disease jump up!
"The coronary arteries supply oxygen-rich blood to your heart. However, as your weight blossoms, plaque builds up in these arteries, clogging them and effectively preventing them from getting the life-saving oxygen-rich blood to your heart.
"Again, the obese person risks developing abnormal levels of blood fats, with increased levels of 'bad' cholesterols and lower levels of 'good' cholesterols. It's one of the things that can lead to 'heart death,' literally, by way of heart attack," the cardiologist says.
Professor of Reproductive Endocrinology, Oladapo Ashiru, says being overweight can make conception difficult, especially among couples who are trying to achieve pregnancy.
Ashiru notes, "Twelve per cent of infertility cases are because of weight-related issues. This is because you need an ideal body weight to achieve pregnancy."
Of course, the same warning goes for those who are extremely thin, and that is why experts talk about "ideal body weight."
Ashiru warns that weight can affect your periods and ovulation; and he laments that when an overweight woman is accessing in-vitro fertility treatment for example, she is usually advised to lose weight; otherwise, the treatment will be of no effect and it will simply disappear into fatty cells, thus frustrating the physician and the patient!
He warns, however, that weight loss or gain should be done under the supervision of a competent physician in order to prevent untoward results.
Ban sleep apnea
Researchers say obesity is a contributory factor to having more fat stored around the neck. They say this can narrow the airway, making it hard to breathe. Perhaps that's why the typical obese person snores heavily when they sleep, making it appear as if they are having difficulty breathing. This poor breathing could result in too much carbon dioxide and too little oxygen in the blood, a situation that could result in serious health problem and, in extreme cases, untimely death, physicians say.
Indeed, researchers say being obese places an individual at the risk of sleep apnea - a type of sleep disorder that is characterised by pauses in breathing or instances of shallow or infrequent breathing during sleep.
Physicians are unanimous in their conclusion that being of normal weight will save you from developing certain disease, thereby giving you the opportunity to live way longer than you probably would if you were obese or overweight.
Experts warn that the lifespan of an overweight person is shorter by 10 years, compared to that of a person with normal weight.
The bottom line: Don't lose heart. Rather, lose weight if you're obese.
Weight loss and weight management tips
To control weight gain, it is important to be aware of what you eat and how much you exercise and to make healthy choices about what you eat and drink. Here are some tips to help:
- Eat more vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and whole grains. Some types of food, such as broth-based soups, also help a person feel full faster.
- Limit foods and beverages that are high in sugar, such as juice and soda.
- Eat and drink only as many calories as you need to maintain a healthy weight and support your level of physical activity.
- Increase levels of physical activity. Most people should aim for 30 to 60 minutes per day of moderate-to-intense exercise on most days. However, even a small increase in physical activity has benefits.