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 Weight Management Feature Story

Cut Weight, Live Longer
Obesity may take years off your life span

Cut Weight, Live Longer(HealthDay News) -- Obesity has been linked to diabetes, heart disease and other health problems. But if that doesn't motivate you to get to the gym and drop the weight, try this: Obese people don't live as long as people who maintain a healthy weight.

"Moderate obesity typically shortens life span by about three years," researcher Gary Whitlock, from the Clinical Trial Service Unit at the University of Oxford in England, told HealthDay. "By moderate obesity, I mean weighing about a third more than is ideal, which for most people would mean being about 50 or 60 pounds overweight."

More than one-third of middle-aged Americans are in this category, Whitlock said.

And the news gets worse as the scale goes up.

"Weighing twice your ideal weight -- say, an extra 150 pounds -- shortens life span by about 10 years," Whitlock said.

Though this super-size category is still uncommon, know this: The weight costs you a 10-year reduction in life span -- the same as is caused by smoking.

"So, smoking is about as dangerous as being severely obese, and about three times as dangerous as being moderately obese," he said.

For the study, Whitlock and other members of the Prospective Studies Collaboration collected data on 894,576 men and women in 57 studies. Their average body-mass index (BMI) was 25. BMI is a calculation based on height and weight. According to the U.S. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, people with a normal weight have a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9, are overweight when their BMI is 25 to 29.9, and obese when they have a BMI of 30 or more.

For those with a BMI over 25, every 10- to 12-pound increase translated to about a 30 percent increased risk for dying prematurely. In addition, the researchers found a 40 percent increase in the risk for heart disease, stroke and other vascular disease; a 60 to 120 percent increased risk for diabetes, liver disease or kidney disease; a 10 percent increased risk for cancer; and a 20 percent increased risk for lung disease.

"Obesity causes kidney disease, liver disease and several types of cancer, but the most common way it kills is by causing stroke and, most importantly, heart disease," Whitlock said. "Obesity causes heart disease by pushing up blood pressure, by interfering with blood cholesterol levels and by bringing on diabetes."

For people inspired to lose weight, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests that you:

  • Make a promise to eat well, move more and get support from family and friends.
  • Remember that to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn.
  • Talk to a doctor. This will help you decide the best options for your specific situation.
  • Start out by setting small goals, such as losing one to two pounds a week, adding 10 minutes of physical activity to your daily routine and avoiding second helpings for one week.

On the Web

To learn more about obesity, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: HealthDay News; Gary Whitlock, Ph.D., Clinical Trial Service Unit, University of Oxford, England; March 18, 2009, The Lancet, online; Quick Guide to Healthy Living, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Health Information Center (www.healthfinder.gov)
Author: Dennis Thompson
Publication Date: March 31, 2010
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