woman eating salad
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What Can 5% Do for You?

You don’t have to slim down to your high school size to get real health benefits. Losing just a few pounds makes a big difference. Five percent of your body weight -- 10 pounds for a 200-pound person -- can improve all kinds of health problems, and make you feel better, too. Talk to your doctor about whether it might help you.

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walking dogs
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Ease Up on Joints

Just 10 extra pounds add 40 pounds of pressure on your knees and other lower body joints. That can wear them out quicker. Extra fat can also cause inflammation -- when chemicals in your body damage your own tissues over time, including your joints. Losing even a little weight can ease these effects. If you keep it off, you’re much less likely to get arthritis later in life.

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cancer cells
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Cut Your Chances of Cancer

One study showed that older women who lost at least 5% of their body weight lowered their chances of breast cancer by 12%. There’s no such clear proof that losing weight protects you from other types, but some changes that happen when you shed pounds hint that it might. For example, overweight people who slim down have lower levels of some hormones linked to cancer, like estrogens, insulin, and androgens.

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Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

If you’re more likely to get the condition, weight loss is one of two ways to prevent or delay it. The other is moderate exercise -- 30 minutes on 5 days a week. If you weigh 160 pounds, you could lose just 8-12 of them to get the benefit. If you already have diabetes, losing that weight can help you take less medication, keep control of your blood sugar, and lower the odds that the condition will cause other health problems.

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A “Good” Cholesterol Bump

You can lower your LDL or “bad” cholesterol with healthier food and medications. But it’s harder to raise levels of the “good” kind of cholesterol, HDL. That’s the type that clears bad LDL from your blood, so the more you have, the better. Exercise and losing body fat can get you into the ideal HDL range: above 60 mg/dl, which lowers your odds of having heart disease.

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fat cells
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Bring Down Triglycerides

They’re particles in your body that transport fat for storage and energy. High levels (more than 200 mg/dl) mean you’re more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. You can get closer to healthy levels (around 150 mg/dl) if you slim down a little. 

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blood pressure screening
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Ease High Blood Pressure

Extra body weight makes your blood push harder against your artery walls. That makes your heart work harder, too. You can lower the pressure by about 5 points if you trim 5% from that number on the scale. Cut your salt and eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy, and you may lower it even more.

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sleep apnea
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Stop Sleep Apnea

People who are overweight gain extra tissue in the back of their throat. When your body relaxes when you sleep, that tissue can drop down and block your airway. It makes you stop breathing over and over all night, which causes all kinds of health problems, especially for your heart. Slimming down a little can oten help with sleep apnea -- sometimes enough that you can stop using the bulky breathing devices that treat it.

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measuring waist
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Reverse Insulin Resistance

Body fat, especially in your belly area, gives off chemicals that make your body stop reacting to the effects of insulin, a hormone that keeps the level of sugar in your blood normal. Even though your pancreas works harder to make more insulin, your blood sugar can get too high. A little bit of weight loss can help reverse this effect.

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Sleep Longer and Better

Some studies have shown that not getting enough ZZZs can make you more likely to be obese. Others show that losing at least 5% of excess weight can lead to better sleep. But don’t overdo it. Sleeping too much isn’t good for your weight or your health.

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father and son
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A Better Mood

Weight loss may help chase your blues away. Scientists are still trying to work out why, but better body image and improved sleep may be part of the reason. In one study, depressed people who were very overweight felt better after they lost an average of 8% of their body weight. Other research shows you’ll continue to feel better, even after 2 years -- as long as you keep the weight off.

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diet plan
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Bring Down Inflammation

Fat cells, especially those around the belly, can release chemicals that irritate and inflame tissues all over the body. This is linked to health problems like arthritis, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Work toward a 10% weight loss goal, and you can lower the amount of these substances and cut your chances of having a serious illness.

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intimate couple
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Have More Sex

When you’re overweight, you typically have less sex. It might be because you just don’t feel good about your body. But it also may be that you have less desire and that even when you’re in the mood, your body doesn’t respond as well. Shed a few pounds and you’ll not only feel better about yourself, you may be in the mood more often, too.

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Lose the Weight: Diet

There’s no one perfect diet to help you slim down, but there are some basic rules. Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Keep your protein lean and unprocessed: Choose meats trimmed of fat, and eat seafood, beans, nuts, and seeds. Replace refined grains like white bread and white rice with whole grains like multigrain bread, brown rice, and oatmeal. Special weight loss surgery may be an option if you are seriously overweight.

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Lose the Weight: Exercise

You should be getting 30 minutes of moderate activity -- a bike ride or brisk walk -- on at least 5 days a week simply to stay in good health. To lose weight and keep it off, you may need more than that. Also include moves to strengthen your muscles, like pushups or light weight training. Check with your doctor about the healthiest ways for you to work out, especially if you haven’t done it in a while.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 11/02/2020 Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on November 02, 2020


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American Journal of Public Health: “I Think Therefore I Am: Perceived Ideal Weight as a Determinant of Health.”

Arthritis Foundation: “Benefits of Weight Loss.”

Diabetes.co.uk: “Insulin Resistance.”

Endocrine Society: “Sleep and Mood Improves after Substantial Weight Loss.”

Harvard Health Publications: “Why weight matters when it comes to joint pain.”

Harvard Medical School Division of Sleep Medicine: “Sleep and Mood.”

International Journal of Impotence Research: “Improvements in sexual quality of life after moderate weight loss.”

International Journal of Obesity: “Sexual function and obesity.”

Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal: “Association of Body Weight and Female Sexual Dysfunction: A Case Control Study.”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Small Steps, Big Rewards. Prevent Type 2 Diabetes. Campaign Overview,” “Health Risks of Being Overweight.”

Obesity Action Coalition: “Benefits of 5-10 Percent Weight-loss.”

Obesity Research Journal: “Changes in Symptoms of Depression with Weight Loss.”

Sex and Marital Therapy: “Changes in Symptoms of Depression with Weight Loss.”

National Cancer Institute: “Obesity and Cancer.”

American Cancer Society: “Does body weight affect cancer risk?”

UpToDate: “Obesity in adults: Health consequences.”

Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on November 02, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.