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Extra Weight Affects More Than You Think

You probably know that excess weight is hard on the heart. But what you may not know is that being overweight or obese takes a toll on other parts of the body, too. Here’s a sampling of research that may surprise you, and how to tell if you’re in the danger zone.

Hardly Just the Heart

Obesity increases your risk for not only heart disease, but also certain cancers, type 2 diabetes, arthritis, stroke, and many other health problems. Now, some research indicates obesity may also affect your brain and your offspring.

Several studies suggest that midlife obesity might lead to an increased risk for dementia. In one study, published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, researchers note that being obese is associated with brain atrophy (loss of neurons and the connections between them).

What’s more, parents who are obese may pass health problems on to their children. A study reported in the journal Hepatology, for example, states that fathers who become obese at an early age were more likely to have children with abnormal liver enzyme levels. In addition, women who are obese during pregnancy are more likely to have babies born with birth defects. 

How Do You Shape Up?

Body mass index (BMI) can help determine whether a person’s health is at risk because of extra pounds. BMI is calculated from your weight and height. A BMI of 25.0 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and 30.0 or more is considered obese. You can calculate your BMI at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: Click on “Adult BMI Calculator.”

Another way to tell if extra pounds put you in peril: Measure your waist. The fat you carry here is important, researchers say, because it may increase your health risks more so than fat elsewhere on the body. Men should aim for a waist size 40 inches or smaller; women should try for 35 inches or less.

Numbers not ideal? Losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight may lower your risk for health problems. Ditch fad diets and “miracle” weight-loss products—they don’t work in the long-term. Instead, ask your health care provider to help you develop a plan for safe and effective weight loss.