6 things that affect your health more than your weight

Weight is the scapegoat for almost everything. You’re not healthy because you’re fat. You wouldn’t weigh so much if you didn’t eat like this.

Despite popular belief, health is not that simple. I’m not completely discounting the fact that weight can play a role in your health. However, reducing every aspect of your health to a number on the scale is short-sighted and misinformed. It is a form of fat phobia.

Many factors affect your health more than your weight, many of which are not even under your control. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are five determinants of health: human genetics, environment, physical habits, medical access, and social factors. Mental health is also an important factor. Here’s what you need to know.

Factors that have a direct impact on your health

1. Genetics

Our genetics decide many things for us. It’s more than how we look—the genes we inherit affect our health. You may have a genetic predisposition to developing diseases and conditions such as high cholesterol, certain cancers, sickle cell anemia, and diabetes. Being predisposed does not automatically mean you will develop the condition, although your chances are higher.

There is also a genetic component to weight, with selected genes predisposing someone to be larger or smaller. Some genes affect metabolism, appetite and body fat distribution.

2. Environmental factors

Environmental factors, such as where someone lives and works, will also affect their health. Many other things are also considered environmental factors, such as access to clean water, food, air quality, and exposure to harmful toxins. Many people may not have to think about these things. You turn on your sink and water comes out. However, the World Health Organization estimates that approximately 12 million deaths per year are attributable to environmental factors.

Studies show that people exposed to harmful air pollutants are 17% more likely to die from heart disease. Burning wood and kerosene indoors or exposure to biomaterials also increases the risk of heart-related death. Those with less means to seek general or specialized treatment are more likely to experience poorer health outcomes.

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3. Physical habits

Let’s think about physical habits in two parts – what we eat and our physical activity.

Our dietary choices have a huge impact on our health: We are what we eat. A diet full of highly processed foods and saturated fats can negatively affect your health. It increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and some cancers.

Most people associate a poor diet with obesity. However, you can be thin and have unhealthy eating habits, just as you can be heavy and make excellent feeding choices. Your weight is affected by many things in addition to diet, so it doesn’t tell the whole story. Your metabolism, or your body’s ability to process what you eatalso plays a huge role.

The other side of our physical habits is exercise. Regular exercise is one of the most important things we can do for our health – it keeps our bodies strong and reduces the risk of chronic diseases. Exercise is good for you no matter what your size, and the negative stereotypes that heavy people are inactive are not true. Our bodies have different baselines, so it’s possible to be fit and still weigh more than someone who doesn’t exercise at all.

4. Access to healthcare

One of the most important determinants of someone’s health is their access to health care. Without the necessary prevention, diagnosis or treatment of their conditions, people are at greater risk of fatal health outcomes. Barriers to health care include lack of insurance, transportation, and the cost of care. And now, with shortage of doctorswait times are longer than ever and care is delayed even further.

Access to health care cannot be seen only as the ability to physically reach the doctor’s office. What happens while you are there is on the other side of the access.

When someone faces discrimination in health care, it makes it less likely that they will get the care they need or seek treatment in the future. Studies show that blacks who are discriminated against have an increased risk of high blood pressure. It’s a similar story for those who experience weight discrimination in health care—they’re more likely to see a decline in their physical and mental health. Older adults have the highest rates of health care discrimination, with one in four black or Hispanic people reporting being treated unfairly, according to a 2021 study.

It is not enough to have access to medical treatment. Healthcare should work for you. This is true access to healthcare.

5. Social determinants

Social determinants are an umbrella term for all non-medical factors that influence health outcomes. This includes someone’s circumstances – where they were born, raised, live and work. It also covers the conditions that shape our lives and the structural policies that inform them – racism, political systems and policies. It has been estimated that social determinants account for up to 50% of health outcomes.

Broadly speaking, social determinants fall into five categories:

  • Socio-economic status and economic stability
  • education
  • Neighborhood
  • Community and social connections
  • Healthcare

Social determinants will vary for each population subgroup, allowing for health care disparities that affect the type of care someone receives. These factors have a greater impact on someone’s health than their lifestyle choices. Let me say that again: lifestyle choices and your weight are not as important as factors like your economic stability, education and where you live.

But how is this possible? Think of it this way: If someone doesn’t have reliable transportation to the grocery store, their access to healthy foods plummets, and so does their nutrition. This increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other chronic diseases. If they don’t have money to pay medical bills, they limit how often they go to the hospital.

The husband sits next to his wife and comforts her while she is upset.

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6. Neglecting your mental health

The CDC does not categorize mental health as an official determinant of health; however, it should be. Our physical and mental health work together to keep us healthy. They are not separate parts of us; one directly affects the other.

Maintenance good mental health can reduce the risk of serious health problems such as high blood pressure and heart attack. Neglecting your mental health makes existing conditions difficult to manage, compromising the care you receive for them and making your condition worse. depression is a common co-morbidity with serious medical conditions. Studies have found that having depression increases the risk of cardiovascular events.

However, access to mental health care is also compromised for many people. The stigma and cost of therapy persist many people from receiving help needed. Online therapy options they have cut costs and expanded mental health resources to areas that previously did not have them.

Too long; didn’t read?

Weight is a part of our overall health, but it is far from the most important thing. Factors such as our circumstances, genetics, environment and access to health care determine our health. And don’t forget mental health.

Someone heavier may be healthier than a thinner person based on these factors and their choices. It’s not all about weight.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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