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Most people know that being overweight can have an effect on overall health. Because February is American Heart Month, it’s a good time to look at how weight relates to the risk of heart disease as well as how weight loss and heart health are linked.

Being overweight can increase your risks of heart disease and it is also linked to a number of conditions that also increase the risk level. The American Heart Association’s list of top controllable risk factors for cardiovascular disease includes:

  • Tobacco smoke
  • High blood cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity and being overweight
  • Diabetes

Making lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet and increasing activity can be beneficial for both weight loss and heart health.

Heart Disease and Obesity

People who are overweight or obese are at higher risk for heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, being obese puts a lot of strain on the heart because it increases how hard it has to work. Being overweight is associated with many conditions linked to heart disease like sleep apnea, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. 

If you are overweight, where you carry excess fat on your body may also affect your risks of developing heart disease. People who carry weight in their abdomens are said to be “apple-shaped” and people who carry more weight in the hips and thighs are “pear-shaped.”

People who carry their extra weight in the abdomen are more likely to get heart disease than those who carry it in the hips and thighs. Those with an apple shape are also at higher risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.

Food Choices, Exercise, & Heart Health

Eating foods high in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol can lead to cardiovascular conditions like atherosclerosis, which is when plaque builds up in the arteries. These foods are also responsible for unhealthy weight gain. Making dietary changes is usually the first step in a weight loss program. Making healthier food choices can also improve heart health. 

The American Heart Association Diet and Lifestyle Recommendation guide lists foods like fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, nuts, legumes, poultry, fish, and certain fats as heart-healthy choices. These foods can often be found in diets focused on weight loss as well.

Exercise is another lifestyle factor that can impact both weight loss and heart health. Getting regular physical activity helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and help boost and sustain weight loss. For those who have not gotten regular exercise for a while, talk to your doctor about how to best get back into the habit. 

Generally, the recommendation is to start out working up to 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise 4 to 6 days a week. Keeping workouts interesting by changing them up every now and then can help motivate you to continue exercising. Some good options include walking, swimming, jogging, dancing, or cycling. 

Benefits of Weight Loss for Heart Health

While losing weight and reducing your risk of heart disease can seem intimidating, it’s important to remember that it is not impossible. Even a 3 to 5 percent sustained weight loss can reduce certain risk factors. If you can lose more than that, the risks go down even more. Not only will you be lowering the risk of heart disease, but you will reduce your risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol. If you already have any of those conditions, losing weight can help you manage them.

Because there is no one program that works for everyone, our Cary, NC weight loss clinic offers personalized plans that will produce results for you. We are focused on how your weight can affect your total health and also specialize in diabetes and pre-diabetes care as well as hypertension and pre-hypertension care. Both of which can also improve your heart health. If you’re ready to take charge of your health by getting to a healthy weight, call Total Healthcare MD at (919) 436-3777.