Lose 10 percent
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Will you ever get back the body you had in your younger days? Does your scale seem to be stuck? Is weight loss a daunting task? Here are the sour facts: 30 percent of Americans are obese, and 60 percent are overweight. Sometimes, weight loss can seem daunting if you think about the total number of pounds you want to lose. But giving yourself a smaller milestone to start with can lead to tremendous results.
Think small, lose big
"First, you should know the benefits of just losing five to 10 percent of your body weight and set your weight-loss goals accordingly," said endocrinologist Ahmet Bahadir Ergin, MD. "Most people put unrealistic goals to lose, for example wanting to lose 20 to 30 percent of their body weight in a very short time, such as weeks or months, and they become frustrated easily. It is more achievable to strive for losing five to 10 percent of your body weight. After losing the first 10 percent, you will know what needs to be done to lose more weight."
Starting with a smaller milestone gives people a realistic expectation of what is involved with weight loss. And, when that milestone is reached, many people feel motivation to continue their success.
"Health benefits of weight reduction as low as five to 10 percent are obvious and have been proved in studies many times," said Dr. Ergin. "This means that an individual who weighs 250 pounds will benefit greatly from losing 15 to 30 pounds."
What good does it do?
Dr. Ergin explained the health benefits of the weight loss.
"First, losing just five to 10 percent of body weight will increase HDL (highdensity lipoprotein) cholesterol, which can lower the risk of heart disease. HDL cholesterol of greater than 50 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) for men and more than 60 mg/dL for women provides protection against heart disease. On the other hand, HDL cholesterol less than 40 in men and less than 50 in women is a risk factor for premature heart disease. If you are more than 25 years of age and overweight, your doctor should test your cholesterol to determine your risk."
Dr. Ergin said losing five to 10 percent of body weight can also decrease blood triglycerides. Exercise; a diet low in concentrated sugars, carbohydrates and fats; and a reduction of excessive alcohol intake will also help to reduce triglycerides, which are a known risk factor for premature heart disease.
Many patients see positive changes to their blood pressure after weight loss.
"By losing five to 10 percent of body weight, blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic, decreases," Dr. Ergin explained. "In conjunction with a salt-restricted diet, and one that is rich in vegetables, fruit and low-fat dairy, the effect on blood pressure could be even higher."
Being overweight or obese also increases the risk for type 2 diabetes because the body cannot effectively use insulin, a hormone that helps convert food to usable energy. A 10 percent reduction in body weight allows the body to use the insulin more efficiently, which can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes. Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder commonly diagnosed in overweight or obese patients. Sleep apnea results in insufficient oxygenation during the night, so patients may snore or gasp for air during sleep. This results in fatigue and sleepiness during the day.
More restful nights
"Losing weight has been shown to improve sleep apnea," said Dr. Ergin.
Another benefit of weight loss? The impact on a person's risk for heart attack or stroke.
"Many studies have shown that fat cells and especially abdominal fat cells produce substances that cause inflammation in the body," Dr. Ergin explained. "The inflammation on vessels can result in strokes and heart attacks. When a weight-loss level of 10 percent is achieved, the levels of inflammatory substances circulating in the blood drop significantly and therefore the risk of vascular damage is reduced as well. Reduction in inflammatory substances in the body also will increase the body's energy level and well-being."
Obesity has also been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers, including those of the esophagus, colon, pancreas, breast, endometrium, kidney, thyroid and gallbladder. Reduction in body weight can reduce the risk of these cancers.
"A 10 percent body weight loss will result in better blood pressure, improved heart health and cholesterol levels, decreased risk for diabetes, a better night's sleep for those with obstructive sleep apnea, decreased risk for many types of cancer, and more energy," said Dr. Ergin. "Weight loss starts with lifestyle changes including diet and exercise and, when indicated, treatment with medication. In extreme cases or patients who are not responding to diet and exercise or medications, bariatric surgery may be an option as well. The first step is to talk to your physician who will help choose a diet plan and medication, if needed, that are most appropriate for you."