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Obesity Can Shorten Your Lifespan by 10 Years

Even a few extra pounds can reduce your lifespan


Two senior women fitness walking together outside
Daniel H. Bailey/Photolibrary/Getty Images
Those extra pounds you see when you step on the scale may be killing you, according to a research analysis that shows adults who are overweight or obese could be reducing their lifespans by as much as a decade, mostly due to increased risks of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

The study found that:

  • People who are obese could reduce their lifespan by three years.
  • People who are overweight but not obese—with a Body Mass Index (BMI ) between 25 and 29.9—could shorten their lifespans by a year.
  • Extreme obesity—weighing 100 pounds or more above a healthy weight—is as bad for your health as a lifelong smoking habit, shortening your lifespan by as much as 10 years.
  • Above a healthy weight, every 5-point jump in BMI increases your risk of early death by roughly 30 percent.

How the Obesity/Lifespan Review Was Done
Researchers reviewed 57 studies, which tracked the health of some 900,000 adults for 10 to 15 years, and analyzed about 70,000 deaths. Their findings were reported online and in The Lancet .

Michael Thun, emeritus vice president of epidemiological research at the American Cancer Society, released a statement calling the analysis that correlates levels of obesity with lifespans a "valuable study that provides a much clearer picture of the risk associated with various levels of being overweight or obese.”

“What is particularly worrisome in the United States is that more than a third of people now qualify as obese, and a subset of people are becoming progressively more obese,” Thun said. “Once you gain weight, it's hard to lose it and easy to gain more. So the goal is to stop your weight gain now.”

How to Maintain a Healthy Weight? It’s No Secret
Americans spend $40 billion a year on weight-loss products and programs, but there really isn’t any mystery about how to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. You just have to burn more calories than you consume every day. That means a healthy diet with smaller portions and more exercise.

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