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.

“Losing weight is not unlike being an ER doctor, a pilot, an accomplished musician or a school teacher. The problem is, until we learn how to do something (like lose weight) and actually go through the process of changing our lifestyle, nutrition and habits, and we get to the other side where we’ve accomplished that weight loss, we don’t realize that we can do it….” –Richard Kelley, MD, emergency room physician in Austin, Texas, and author of The Fitness Response

LOSING WEIGHT THE RIGHT WAY1388096560-weightloss
Looking for a new plan of action to shed that weight once and for all? Whatever you do, don’t turn to fad diets that may cause you to lose weight very quickly. When you lose weight rapidly, you’re losing muscle as well as fat. This may actually cause health problems, said Steven Masley, MD, president of The Masley Optimal Health Center, and author of forthcoming book 30-Day Heart Tune Up: A Breakthrough Medical Plan to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. “Abnormal weight loss may actually worsen blood pressure, cholesterol and cardiovascular risk,” he added.

One fad diet gone wrong was “The Last Chance Diet,” created by Dr. Roger Linn, who published a book by the same name in 1976. One of the first liquid protein diets, the Last Chance Diet consisted of drinking Prolinn, a low-quality protein drink derived from the hooves and hides of slaughterhouse animals. Unfortunately, some 60 sudden deaths occurred as a result of this diet, thought to be due to abnormal heart rhythms that resulted from shrinkage of heart muscle and electrolyte imbalances.

Most health experts believe that the key to safe weight loss is taking it off slowly (one to two pounds per week), which preserves lean muscle while losing fat mass. Even better, said Dr. Masley, is actually gaining muscle mass while losing fat mass – something that can be accomplished with a combination of healthy eating and increased physical activity.

Looking for some tools to assist you in your weight loss efforts? Look no further than your iPhone or Android phone to find some great apps to help you pare down. Here are three to try:

Noom Weight Loss – If all your munching has packed on the pounds, you can help take them off with the free app, Noom Weight Loss Coach. More than just a calorie and exercise tracker, this interactive app provides health coaching through daily activities, encouragement and support. A real plus is the integrated pedometer, which counts your steps all day without draining your battery dry.

Diet Point Weight Loss – Think a healthy diet means subsisting on only salads? Think again. This free app features a large collection of weight loss diet plans that accommodate your interests and special needs, such as vegetarian or low carb. Complete with shopping lists and recipes for each plan, as well as a weight tracker, BMI calculator and meal reminder, it takes the guess work out of weight loss.

Scientific 7 Minute Workout – No time to exercise? Thanks to this scientifically formulated high intensity circuit training app, you can reduce the amount of time you need to get an intense workout, with no equipment needed other than a chair. It’s a simple program, but you can still set how long you want to pause between exercises, go back and forth to select favorite exercises, and see your progress on a progress bar. Scientific 7 Minute Workout is a free app, but you may want to upgrade to the Pro version (for a small fee) to hear voice commands, rather than having to look at your phone. MS&F

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