If you’ve been packing on the pudge lately, you know that slimming down is crucial for your overall health – not to mention fitting into your skinny jeans. Even a modest weight loss can lower your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and cancer. But there are a few lesser-known benefits to winning the battle of the bulge, too. Read on to learn five surprising benefits of leaning down and maintaining a healthy weight for life.
1. You’ll Sleep Better
According to Ken Hansraj, MD, New York orthopedic surgeon and author of Keys to an Amazing Life: Secrets of the Cervical Spine, excess weight in the trunk and neck can compromise respiration and result in sleep disordered breathing, such as sleep apnea. Sleep disordered breathing diminishes both the quantity and the quality of sleep, leading to daytime drowsiness – which can definitely put a dent in your enthusiasm for working out. Sleep deprivation also causes hormone disruption that can trigger an increase in appetite, too. Pare down even a few of those pounds, said Dr. Hansraj, and you’ll notice an improvement in sleep – and the energy to hit the gym.
2. Reduces Risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as many as 300,000-600,000 Americans develop deep vein thrombosis (DVT) each year, a condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a large vein, often in the lower extremities. When you have DVT, part of the clot can break off and travel to the lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism – an emergent situation. “Excess weight increases the risk of developing DVT,” said Richard Kelley, MD, emergency room physician in Austin, Texas, and author of The Fitness Response, because it increases the pressure in the veins of the pelvis and legs, raising the potential for a blood clot to form.
3. You’ll Be Safer in the Hospital
Of course, you never really expect to land in the hospital. But we’ve all had a situation such as an illness, accident or injury that brings us to the emergency room. And carrying extra weight makes medical intervention less effective, said Dr. Kelley. “Excessively overweight or obese individuals face technical risks in the hospital environment, when it comes to obtaining intravenous access in order to deliver antibiotics, fluid or critical medications in emergent situations,” he explained. And if you need surgery, he added, the increase in fat around the head and neck area makes it difficult to intubate (insert a tube into the airway to assist with breathing).
4. Your Reproductive System Will Be Healthier
Everyone knows that when you look and feel better, you’ll have a saucier sex life. But carrying around that extra fat can lead to changes in hormone levels that can impair both fertility and the ability to carry a fetus to term, too, said Michael Nusbaum, MD, Medical Director of the Obesity Treatment Centers of New Jersey. “Fat can increase estrogen levels in both men and women,” he explained. “This may lead to changes in ovulation as well as low sperm counts and low sperm motility.” And, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, there is evidence that obesity increases the risk of pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and even miscarriage.
5. Your Brain Will Stay Sharper
Recent research shows that people who are obese in middle age may experience a more rapid decline in cognitive skills, like thinking and memory. While it’s not clear exactly how excess weight is associated with cognitive decline, scientists believe it may be that cardiovascular problems that occur as a result of obesity may also affect the vessels of the brain.