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Cancer may not be one of the first things you think about when it comes to the health risks of being overweight or obese, but it probably should be. As many as 10 different cancers have been linked to weight, including cancers of the colon, endometrium, kidney, esophagus and breast.

With such a broad impact, it’s been estimated that about 90,000 deaths from cancer could be avoided each year in the United States if everyone stayed at a healthy weight throughout life. Tack on lower rates of heart disease, diabetes and blood pressure, and it’s hard to ignore the importance of keeping weight in check.

So what exactly is a healthy weight? Enter the strange sounding “body mass index” (BMI). BMI uses a special calculation of weight and height to get an idea of how much extra fat someone may be carrying.

For adults, a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is a healthy weight. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is overweight, and anything 30 and over is obese. While BMI is not a perfect measure, for most people it does a very good job estimating excess weight. To see where you fall on the scale, visit our BMI calculator.

Of course, the health risks related to being overweight aren’t constant throughout one BMI category and then immediately jump up when you cross into another. It’s much more a steady increase. As BMI goes up, the size and number of health risks start to go up. Even within the healthy range, the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and some cancers starts to rise as BMI creeps up.

Although keeping weight in check can be a tall order in this day of super-sized meals and automated just-about-everything, it’s well worth the effort. The cancer benefits alone are huge. When the impact on heart disease, diabetes, blood pressure and good old-fashioned quality of life are added, the benefits become enormous. Try these simple steps:

  • Exercise, exercise, exercise: Being active is one of the best ways of controlling weight.
  • Go Mediterranean: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy oils (like olive oil) can make you feel full, help regulate your appetite and actually taste really good.
  • Choose smaller portions and eat more slowly: Slow down and give your body a chance to feel full before you move on to seconds.
  • Be a mindful eater: Food is big business, and most companies’ main goal is to get you to eat. Try to listen to what your body is telling you, not what the food business wants you to hear.

Visit our Weight Control Tips and Tricks page for more detailed information about controlling your weight.