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How Much Weight Should I Lose To Protect My Heart?

October 11, 2022

Too often, people wait for a health scare before getting serious about shedding pounds.

If you are significantly overweight, your primary care doctor has undoubtedly explained how this could affect your heart. In a perfect world, these discussions would offer all the incentive needed to make a difference.

Unfortunately, it often takes an unwanted trip to a cardiologist for the heart dangers of obesity to sink in.

When you have too much fat on your body, it can cause chemical changes in your blood. And when fat cells grow larger, they can shed hormones that cause chronic inflammation. This, in turn, can hinder your body’s ability to adequately regulate blood sugar levels and can result in metabolic syndrome.

This creates a range of biochemical events that increase the risk factors for heart disease, including: 

  • High LDL cholesterol
  • High triglycerides
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar
  • Low HDL cholesterol

How Much Is Enough?

It’s estimated that obesity affects 40 percent of the U.S. population. The benchmark for obesity is having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more – class 1 obesity. Class 2 obesity is 35 to 39. And anything over 40 is class 3, which is often referred to as severe or morbid obesity.

Your BMI number is determined through a formula involving your height and weight. You can find a calculator here.

If you find yourself in one of these obesity classes, the good news is that you can start with modest weight-loss goals. Studies have shown that even a 5 percent drop – regardless of your BMI – will help your heart.

So, if you are starting at 200 pounds, you’ll start to reap health benefits by dropping just 10 pounds. Your blood pressure may drop along with your triglycerides, total and “bad” cholesterol. It can also help cut your chance of developing diabetes – another major risk factor for heart disease.

Weight Loss Strategies

The key to any weight loss effort is mental commitment. You have to go into it with a plan to change the way you eat and live.

Too many people approach weight loss with a set goal in terms of pounds that will be dropped. But once that goal is met, old habits creep back in and the weight returns. Short-term weight loss offers no real benefit for you. It’s long-term slow, steady weight loss that helps your heart.

There is no one way to lose weight. It’s important to find a strategy that works for you.

Among the areas to focus on:

Healthy Eating

  • Eat at least four vegetable servings a day.
  • Eat at least three fruit servings a day.
  • Stay away from refined grains, in favor of whole grains.
  • Avoid sugar as much as possible.
  • Choose low-fat dairy.
  • Avoid fatty and processed meats, while limiting lean meat and poultry
  • Pick healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts and avocados.

Get Up and Move

  • Walking: This is a good starting point, with 30 minutes of brisk walking that burns 150 calories a day.
  • Running: One of the most effective ways to lose weight, whether on a treadmill or running through your neighborhood.
  • Swimming: This low-impact option combines cardio and strength training.
  • Cycling: A steady, moderate ride can burn 300 calories an hour, though the benefits can be more significant with more intense rides.
  • Yoga: Another low-impact activity, yoga can increase strength, flexibility and coordination, while helping you lose weight and stress.

Medicine

  • Medicines to help suppress your appetite include phentermine and newer injectables like Ozempic.

Bariatric Surgery

  • Gastric sleeve: In this most common version of bariatric surgery, 80 percent of the stomach is removed, reducing the amount of food you can eat and stabilizing your metabolism.
  • Gastric bypass: The procedure creates a new, smaller stomach, with a section of the small intestine.

Biliopancreatic diversion with duodenal switch: This is a more extreme version of the gastric bypass. It bypasses 75 percent of the small intestine.

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