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Heart Disease: How To Reduce The Risk

What You Should Know About Losing Weight Safely

Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 21:55

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

How does excess body weight increase your risk for heart disease?

Do you weigh more than you should?

Why do you need to exercise?

How you can cut calories

How Does Excess Body Weight Increase Your Risk For Heart Disease?

Excess body weight increases the risk for coronary heart disease because it:

  • Raises total blood cholesterol levels, especially levels of LDL cholesterol (the harmful kind of cholesterol that clogs blood vessels)
  • Decreases levels of HDL cholesterol (the good kind of cholesterol that helps clear blood vessels)
  • Raises blood triglyceride levels (a type of fat that also clogs blood vessels)
  • Increases blood pressure
  • Makes the heart work harder
  • Contributes to inactivity, since overweight individuals are often reluctant to join an exercise program for fear of ridicule or not being able to keep up

Do You Weigh More Than You Should?

Most of us can look in the mirror and tell if we are overweight. Generally, if you can pinch an inch at your waist, or if you weigh over 10 to 15 pounds more than you did when you were 20, you probably need to lose weight.

Experts now evaluate body weight using a formula called body mass index. Body mass index expresses body weight in relation to height. Body mass index actually equals body weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared, but you can use the table below to help you figure your body mass index.

To calculate your body mass index:

  • Multiply your weight in pounds by 704.5
  • Multiply your height in inches by your height in inches
  • Divide the first result by the second

Or you can use the following table to determine your body mass index:

Weight in pounds equal to a BMI of:

Height

20

25

27

30

35

4'10"

96

119

129

143

167

4'11"

99

124

133

148

173

5'0"

102

128

138

153

179

5'1"

106

132

143

158

185

5'2"

109

136

147

164

191

5'3"

113

141

152

169

197

5'4"

116

145

157

174

204

5'5"

120

150

162

180

210

5'6"

124

155

167

186

216

5'7"

127

159

172

191

223

5'8"

131

164

177

197

230

5'9"

135

169

182

203

236

5'10"

139

174

188

207

243

5'11"

143

179

193

215

250

6'0"

147

184

199

221

258

6'1"

151

189

204

227

265

6'2"

155

194

210

233

272

6'3"

160

200

216

240

279

6'4"

164

205

221

246

287

Experts consider a person with a body mass index of 25 to 29 to be overweight, and a person with a body mass index of 30 or more to be obese.

Nice To Know:

Q: Is excess fat in the upper or lower body more harmful?

A: Some people carry excess weight in the hips and thighs (referred to as pear shaped, or lower body obesity), while others carry it in the abdominal area (referred to as apple-shaped, or upper body obesity). We now know that upper body obesity increases risk for coronary heart disease much more than lower body obesity.

Since the measurement around your waistline reflects your level of abdominal fat, a waist measurement can be a good clue to whether you have too much upper body fat. Generally speaking, you have too much abdominal fat if your waist measurement exceeds:

  • 40 inches for men
  • 35 inches for women

Need To Know:

Q: How can I Iose weight and keep it off?

A: Losing weight is hard, but keeping it off is even harder. The most successful way to lose weight and keep it off is to modestly reduce your calorie intake while maintaining a regular exercise program. In fact, people who are most likely to succeed in losing weight and keeping are people who exercise regularly.

Why Do You Need To Exercise?

For most people, reducing calorie intake alone is not enough to achieve permanent weight loss. When you cut calories, some of the weight you lose comes from muscle tissue. When you severely cut your calorie intake, your body reacts as though it were being starved, slowing down its metabolism and making it harder to lose weight.

Exercising regularly helps you lose weight in several ways:

  • Exercising while cutting calories helps you maintain muscle tissue and burn a higher percentage of body fat
  • Exercising re-sets the body's metabolism, countering the effects of calorie restriction
  • Exercise burns calories
  • Exercise can keep you out of the kitchen and away from food

How-To Information:

How you can cut calories

Cutting your calories involves changing both the types of food you eat and the way you eat. Fortunately, the types of foods that lower blood cholesterol levels also reduce calories in the diet. Since fat is a very concentrated source of calories, eating more of the low-fat foods that help you lower your cholesterol levels-like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains-will also help you cut your calories.

If you tend to eat even when you are not really hungry, you may also need to change the way you eat. To help you cut calories:

  • Eat three main meals, including breakfast.
  • Plan for low-fat snacks in the morning and afternoon.
  • Keep a food diary to help you identify problem areas or situations that trigger overeating.
  • Always eat in the same place when you are home, which will help keep you from nibbling all the time.
  • Sit down while you eat.
  • Keep problem foods out of the house (or at least off the counter and less accessible).
  • Find substitutes for favorite foods that are high in calories-for example, angel food cake instead of richer types of cakes, pretzels instead of potato chips, bagels instead of doughnuts.

Need To Know:

Q: Are there any dangers with dieting?

A: Although excess weight increases the risk for coronary heart disease and other health problems, repeated cycles of weight loss and gain are even worse for health. Slow and steady weight loss that you can maintain over the long-term is much more healthful than crash dieting. Remember that the extra weight took a long time to creep on, so it will come off slowly too.

Try to focus on the positive lifetime changes you are making for your health rather than on what the scales say. If you exercise regularly and adopt healthy, low-fat foods as part of your usual diet, you may be surprised at how easily the weight will come off.

 

Heart Disease: How To Reduce The Risk