The mathematics of better health. How much weight do you really need to lose?

The mathematics of better health. How much weight do you really need to lose?

Most of us (self included) find that as we grow older, we also more readily gain weight - and find it harder to lose it. A common reaction to having a health scare is to assess whether we can improve our health by losing a few pounds/kilos and a cancer diagnosis certainly qualifies there! But how much to lose? David Glance, Director of UWA Centre for Software Practice at University of Western Australia shares his confusion on the difficulties of deciding what's a healthy weight and working out how much to loose:

Here's a reminder of health conditions and diseases that are associated with being overweight:

But while losing excess weight can reducing your risk of developing comorbidities that can complicate your life with CLL, particularly should you need treatment, there is good evidence that having a higher BMI as you age (BMI between 25 - 27 is associated with lower mortality:

If you are wondering whether you should lose some weight (or maybe put some on), discuss this with your haematologist and GP. My haematologist checks my weight each check-up, but surprisingly this doesn't seem to a standard procedure elsewhere. Sudden and unexpected significant weight loss is of course one of the triggers for starting CLL treatment and given nausea is a common complication of treatment, having some reserves can arguably be advantageous, provided it doesn't cause other problems.


Photo: A Funereal Cockatoo; what better choice could there be for a post on the influence of weight on mortality?

9 Replies

  • Neil, this is a lovely, confidence boosting, pragmatic look at weight issues.

    With CLL, just before treatment was started, I had lost 15 kilos in weight over 2 years from 90 kilos down to a more healthy 75 kilos.

    I think this came about because of an enlarged spleen and feeling full soon into a meal.

    Now, feeling so much better on Ibrutinib (Imbruvica) since March this year, and my spleen size reducing, I am having to think about stopping overeating since I don't really want to go back up to 90 kilos!

  • Well I'm glad to say that I achieved my New Years resolution to bring my weight down to my own target of 162 lbs - BMI 23.25 .

    The downside being that nothing fits me any more ... plus being practically housebound, then suddenly appearing in public, means that those who knew that I have CLL feared the worst.

    " Photo: A Funereal Cockatoo; what better choice could there be for a post on the influence of weight on mortality? " .... now your scaring me Neil ... I've just signed up to a funeral plan yesterday !


  • Hi Neil,

    I'm a stone overweight, but work on the premise I'll need it to get through treatment. However, some people say they've gained weight during treatment, so it's hard to know. My BMI is 27



  • I gained weight AFTER treatment by eating bread that I had completely gone off during my chemo. And it's oh so much harder to get rid of the extra pounds than it was putting them on!

  • Weight loss/gain during treatment is not something we've discussed in this community. Perhaps you could ask the question or we could do some kind of poll on common experiences during treatment? I would have thought the percentage of patients putting on weight during treatment was quite low, but I don't know. I'm about the same BMI as you and I'm also working on the same premise as you :) , plus the research I referenced above to justify it, though I know I feel better if I keep my weight stable and regularly exercise.

    Chemo treatment for CLL is supposedly not as tough to get through compared to that for other cancers, but from what some have reported, I wonder...


  • Hi Neil

    I have the opposite problem. I've been on watch and wait for nine years - age 72. I'm six foot tall and weigh just under nine stone ( sorry I can't think metric ). My weights been much the same for years. Every time I see my consultant I'm advised to try to put on weight!!

  • What's your secret other than presumably the right genetics? :)

  • I put on quite a lot of weight after breaking a bone in my spine, and then had major surgery which kept me very inactive. I have not been what you would call skinny for a number of years but prior to the break I was very active, went to the gym 6 mornings a week and walked quite a bit.

    Now coming out the other side of my problems (hopefully) I find being overweight very hard, cannot be active, cannot walk far, feel most unlike my previous self.

    Lots of work to be done to reach my former fitness which helped me cope with my CLL.

    So I think maybe if one is active, able to walk at a good pace and follow normal activities then being a little overweight may not be too bad.

    Problems definitely occur when one is plain fat, a BMI of over 27/28 is surely heading in the wrong direction, unless of course much of your weight is muscle.


  • Interesting stuff....but not much help in which measure is best! Especially as I know I am bit blobby at the moment

    Reassuringly, the waist/height measure means I only have to lose 2 cms round the waist........However, I fear the BMI would say I have to do rather more! Which feels like the wrong way round according to the article.

    I suspect, we are all different shapes and that makes a difference as to how we score on each measure....... I might just keep the delusion going that my brain must be v big, so the BMI is harder...........

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