Published on July 13, 2016

Extra weight affects more than you think

You know 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.

Women RunningHere’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 also may affect your brain and your offspring.

Studies have found that excess fat around the waist might lead to an increased risk for dementia later in life. In another study, published in the BMJ, researchers found that being obese during midlife also increases the risk for dementia in later years.

What’s more, parents who are obese may pass health problems onto their children. A study reported in the journal Gastroenterology, for example, found that fathers who become obese at an early age were more likely to have children with abnormal liver tests. A genetic cause for the father’s obesity may be linked to a genetic cause for liver disease. 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 a ratio of weight to height. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and 30 or more is considered obese. You can calculate your BMI here.

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 smaller than 40 inches; women should try for less than 35 inches.

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 doctor to help you develop a plan for safe and effective weight loss.