6 Things That Matter More for Your Health Than Your Weight

Weight is a scapegoat for just about everything. But other things affect your health too.

Taylor Leamey writes about all things wellness, specializing in mental health, sleep and nutrition coverage. She has invested hundreds of hours into studying and researching sleep and holds a Certified Sleep Science Coach certification from the Spencer Institute. Not to mention the years she spent studying mental health fundamentals while earning her bachelor's degrees in both Psychology and Sociology. She is also a Certified Stress Management Coach.

Health is not as simple as how much you weigh. While I'm not discounting that weight can play a role in your wellness, you can't boil down every aspect of your health to the number on the scale. That's a form of .

There are factors affect your health more , many of which are not within your control. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are five determinants of health: a person's genetics, environment, physical habits, medical access and social factors. Mental health is also an important factor. Here's what to know.

Our genetics decide a great number of things for us. It's more than just what we look like -- the genes we inherit influence our health. You can have a genetic predisposition to develop diseases and conditions like high cholesterol, certain cancers, sickle cell disease and diabetes. A predisposition doesn't automatically mean you'll develop the condition, though your chances are higher. 

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

Studies have shown that people exposed to harmful air pollutants are 17% more likely to die of heart disease. Indoor wood and kerosene burning or exposure to biomaterials also increase the risk of heart-related death. Those with fewer resources to seek general or specialized treatment are more likely to experience worse health outcomes. 

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

Our diet choices hugely impact our health: We are what we eat. A diet filled with heavily processed foods and saturated fats can negatively impact your health. It increases your risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension and certain cancers. 

Most people associate a poor diet with obesity. However, you can be thin and have unhealthy food habits, just like you can be . Your weight is influenced by many things in addition to diet, so it doesn't tell the whole story. Your metabolism, or your body's ability to , also plays a huge role. 

The other side of our physical habits is exercise. Consistent physical exercise is one of the most important things we can do for our health -- it keeps our body strong and reduces our risk for chronic conditions. Exercise is good for you no matter your size, and the negative stereotypes about heavy people being inactive aren't 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. 

Access to health care cannot only be viewed as being able to physically arrive at the doctor's office. What happens while you're there is the other side of access. 

It's not enough to be able to access medical treatment. It has to be health care that works for you. That's true access to health care. 

Social determinants will vary for each population subgroup, allowing for health inequalities that influence the type of care someone gets. These factors have a larger impact on someone's health than their lifestyle choices. Let me say it again: Lifestyle choices and your weight aren't as important as factors like your economic stability, education and where you live.  

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

The CDC doesn't categorize mental health as an official determinant of health, but it should be. Our physical and mental wellness work together to keep us healthy. They aren't separate parts of us; one directly impacts the other. 

That said, access to mental health care is also compromised for many people. The stigma and cost of therapy keep needed help. have and expanded mental health resources to areas that didn't previously have them. 

Weight is one part of our overall health, but it's far from the most important. Factors like our circumstances, genetics, environment and health care access determine our health. And don't forget mental health. 

Someone heavier can 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 provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
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