Science Says This is the #1 Way to Stay Healthy
For optimal lifelong health, start here.
By Michael Martin June 10, 2021
This article is a repost which originally appeared on Eat This, Not That!
Edited for content.
Americans are a nation of closet biohackers. We all want to lose weight fast, look 10 years younger, prevent serious disease, and live longer than ever before. That self-improvement impulse has led many of us to swallow the promises of various gadgets, supplements, regimens, and apps in our quest for quick and ultimate health.
But science says the most important way to be healthy is pretty basic. Read on to find out what it is.
The #1 Way to Stay Healthy
If you look for a consensus of top experts’ opinions on the most important thing you can do to stay healthy, is probably to maintain a healthy weight.
That’s because being overweight or obese raises the risk of so many chronic, life-shortening diseases: heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, just to name a few. And maintaining a healthy weight goes hand-in-hand with healthy habits that can further reduce your risk of disease, such as eating a healthy diet and getting sufficient exercise. Keep reading to see if you qualify as overweight.
What Is a Healthy Weight?
Says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “A high amount of body fat can lead to weight-related diseases and other health issues. Being underweight is also a health risk.”
One of the tools to assess a healthy weight is the body mass index (BMI). You can find a calculator for BMI here.
According to the CDC:
- If your BMI is less than 18.5, it’s in the underweight range
- If your BMI is 18.5 to 24.9, it’s in the normal or “healthy weight” range
- If your BMI is 25.0 to 29.9, it’s in the overweight range
- If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, it’s in the obese range
Another tool is to measure your waist circumference. You’re at risk of obesity-related health conditions if you’re a man whose waist circumference is more than 40 inches, or a non-pregnant woman whose waist circumference is more than 35 inches.
Why Is a Healthy Weight So Important?
The CDC says that people who are overweight or obese are at higher risk of death from any cause, along with the following conditions:
- Cardiovascular disease or stroke
- More than a dozen types of cancer
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- High levels of “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood)
- Low levels of “good” cholesterol
- Gallbladder disease
- Sleep apnea and breathing problems
- Mental illness (such as depression or anxiety)
- Body pain and mobility problems
How Do I Maintain a Healthy Weight?
To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, the National Institutes of Health recommends choosing nutrient-dense foods—that means limiting added sugar, simple carbs, processed foods, alcohol, and fast food—and being physically active at least 150 minutes a week.
Authorities like the American Heart Association and American Cancer Society also recommend that amount of exercise—150 minutes of moderate exercise (such as brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (such as running or swimming)—preferably spread throughout the week.
But most importantly: Talk to your doctor about your weight if you think it’s not in a healthy range. They can help.