Being overweight raises total blood cholesterol levels. In addition, it throws your cholesterol levels out of balance, raising levels of LDL cholesterol (the harmful kind of cholesterol that clogs blood vessels) and lowering levels of HDL cholesterol (the good kind of cholesterol that helps clear blood vessels).
Besides its effects on blood cholesterol levels, being overweight increases your risk for heart disease by raising blood pressure and straining the heart.
Do You Weigh More Than You Should?
Most of us can look in the mirror and tell if we are overweight. In simple, terms, if you can pinch an inch at your waist or weigh over 10 to 15 pounds more than you did when you were 20, you probably need to lose weight.
Experts now evaluate body weight using a more complex formula called body mass index, or BMI. BMI expresses body weight in relation to height. (BMI actually equals body weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared.)
Experts consider a person with a BMI of 25 to 29 to be overweight, and a person with a BMI of 30 or more to be obese. You can use the following table tell if your BMI exceeds these numbers.
Weight in pounds is equal to a BMI of:
Are There Different Types Of Body Fat?
Some people carry excess weight in the hips and thighs (referred to as pear-shaped, or lower body obesity), while others carry it in the abdominal area (referred to as apple-shaped, or upper body obesity). We now know that excess fat in the abdominal area is more likely than excess fat in the lower body to cause health problems such as high blood cholesterol levels.
Since the measurement around your waistline reflects your level of abdominal fat, a waist measurement can be a good clue to whether you have too much upper body fat. You have too much abdominal fat if your waist measurement exceeds:
40 inches for men
35 inches for women
How Can You Lose Weight And Keep It Off?
Losing weight is hard, but keeping it off is even harder. Changing the way you eat and maintaining a regular exercise program are the two key ingredients in any weight control formula.
Fortunately, when you limit fat and cholesterol in the diet, you also cut calories, promoting weight control and helping to lower your cholesterol levels. Further, people who are most likely to succeed in losing weight and keeping it off are people who exercise regularly.
What Are The Dangers Of Dieting?
Although excess weight raises blood cholesterol levels and increases risk for heart disease and other health problems, repeated cycles of losing and regaining weight are even worse for health. A slow and steady rate of weight loss that you can maintain over the long-term is much more healthful than crash-dieting. Remember that the extra weight probably took a long time to creep on, so it will come off slowly too.
Try to focus on the positive lifetime changes you are making for your health rather than on what the scales say. If you exercise regularly and adopt healthy, low-fat foods as part of your usual diet, you may be surprised at how easily the weight will come off.