Some things you just don’t want on your list of bragging rights. Being the most obese nation in the world is one of those realities the U.S. would love to strike from its record. But it’s a health-crisis reality, and reversing it starts with changing mindsets toward the health benefits of losing weight.

Consider that some 160 million Americans are overweight or obese. We account for only 5% of the world’s population, but 13% of the world’s overweight and obese population. The global study at the helm of these statistics reports millions of lives lost or disabled as a result of obesity. And perhaps even more frightening is the increase in childhood obesity.

If we’re going to turn around this runaway train, we have to get real about both the dangers of being overweight and the health benefits of losing weight.

Some people don’t pay attention until they’re told their lives are in imminent danger. But some perk up when they hear there are ways to make positive changes before their health becomes dire.

If you are in the latter group, you have the opportunity to embrace your health in a proactive, sustainable, clinically supported way.

Even if you need to reinvent yourself to reach your ideal weight, a mere 5% drop in pounds can reinvent your health. It can also boost your chances of reaching your goal.

Here are the 4 most important health benefits of losing weight.

  1. Reduced risk of diabetes.
    One study involving lifestyle intervention measures (diet and exercise) found that as little as
    1kg (2.2 lbs) of weight loss correlated to a 16% reduction in risk of diabetes.
    But for those already living with type 2 diabetes, the health benefits of losing weight may have limited scope. A
    Look AHEAD study showed that weight loss for those with type 2 diabetes had many benefits, but did not reduce the chances of cardiovascular events.
    What’s the positive takeaway here?
    Prevention, prevention, prevention.
  1. Reduced risk of heart disease.
    Heart disease is the number-one killer in America, accounting for one in three deaths. And being overweight or obese is directly linked to your risk of coronary artery disease and heart attacks.
    A lot of weight-based factors, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, contribute to the risk of heart disease. And it’s not just how much weight you carry that matters, but where you carry it on your body. Fat stored around the belly significantly increases the risk of heart disease.
    Grab your scale and tape measure, and go
    here to see if your weight and its distribution are putting your heart on notice. Reducing your weight by just 10% with diet and exercise can start chipping away at your risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular events like strokes.
  1. Decreased risk of some cancers.
    Research is revealing more and more about the
    role of chronic inflammation in cancer.
    A healthy inflammatory response occurs in response to an injury. It comes in, does its healing work, and leaves.
    Chronic inflammation, however, isn’t necessarily triggered by an injury. And it doesn’t know when to leave. Resulting potential damage to DNA can lead to cancer.
    Obesity is one of the causes of chronic inflammation, so losing the excess fat can reduce both chronic inflammation and risk of cancer.
  1. A load off your joints.
    For every 10 pounds you shed, your knees and lower-body joints will thank you for 40 pounds of relief. And if they’re feeling lighter, they’ll be more willing to take you up that hill on tomorrow’s hike. Fewer pounds = more activity = more pounds lost = new and healthier you!

Shedding unwanted weight has the obvious allure of shrinking into new clothes and greater self-esteem. But focusing on the health benefits of losing weight will help you develop a sustainable mindset that can improve your life…and even save it.