6 Ways Weight Loss Can Improve Women’s Health

Article posted in: Lifestyle

Women may have different nutritional needs than men, which provides us a great opportunity to look at the ways losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight can improve, overall, women’s health and outlooks. What follows is a list, with slideshow, of six ways losing weight can help women lead healthier, happier, more fulfilling lives.

1. Multiple studies have shown that obesity and infertility are linked, probably because obesity can cause hormone levels to fluctuate; for example, abdominal fat can increase insulin levels, which can in turn lead to an increased androgen level. And increases in estrogen levels can cause abnormal menstrual cycles, making conception more difficult and more difficult to plan. Oral contraceptives are often less effective in obese women. Upshot: The best bet for women who want to conceive is to reach healthier weight levels before trying to get pregnant, then maintaining a healthy weight through the course of the pregnancy to avoid weight-related pregnancy issues such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.

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2. Mothers who give birth at healthy weights have a much easier time with breastfeeding, studies in the United Kingdom and the United States have shown. They’re more likely to consider and to start breastfeeding, and women at healthier weight levels breastfeed longer than obese women. Some of this is a result of delayed milk production in heavier mothers, but some of the affects may be cultural. Upshot: If you plan to breastfeed—and multiple studies have shown breastfeeding to be the healthiest way to feed a newborn—consider reaching a healthy weight before conceiving.

3. Overweight or obese women tend to have higher rates of depression than women who are at healthier weights. One study, the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted from 1988 to 1994, showed that obesity was associated with past-month depression in women, but not in men. An even stronger link between obesity and severe depression was found in a California study of 2,300 people, but the difference between the sexes wasn’t as strong. Upshot: Researchers think cultural biases against heavy people may have more to do with the link than any physiological cause, but suggest weight loss as a potential treatment.

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4. Women who are overweight tend to have more knee and lower back problems than women at healthier weights. The extra weight can put more stress and strain on the joints and back, and researchers have found that heavier women may be less inclined to exercise because of difficulty in movement and cultural pressures. Upshot: If you’re just starting an exercise program, check with your doctor first, start slowly and remember that any kind of movement is better than none at all.

5. An increasing body of evidence suggests a link between obesity and gynecologic and breast cancers, as well as lower rates of survival of those diseases. Researchers think part of the problem may be that cancers are detected later in heavier women and that they don’t respond as well to treatment because of overall decreased health. In a study of nearly 15,000 women, certain forms of cancer were much lower in the group that was not obese. Upshot: Losing weight now may put you at decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

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6. There’s a strong correlation between being overweight and developing both Type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. The Nurses’ Health Study, which followed 84,000 female nurses for 16 years, found that being overweight was the single most important predictor of diabetes. Obesity is a known risk factor for the development of coronary artery disease (CAD) in women; if you lose weight, your risk of CAD declines, probably because of the relationship between obesity and insulin resistance. In a study of 37,000 women in Washington State, women with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or higher (30 and above is considered obese) were found to be three time more likely to develop CAD and five times more likely to develop hypertension than women with BMIs under 35. Upshot: Losing weight is good for your heart and veins, and decreases your risk of diabetes.