WeightWatchers put out a fabulous article on the benefits of losing weight and Heart Disease.
Losing weight can do more than make you look better — it can save your life by reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease.
The weight-heart connection is simple: Weight loss is an important shield against coronary heart disease.
If there is heart disease in your family, or you're on prescriptions for blood pressure, or your doctor warns you about extra heart risks, you may feel a bit like disease is your destiny. But take heart. In its Guidelines for the Treatment of Overweight and Obesity, The National Institutes of Health report that a 5 percent to 10 percent weight loss can make a huge difference, and February — American Heart Month — is a great time to pick up the pace toward your weight goal.
But first, find out what losing weight can do for you. It can:
•Lower the scary numbers. "Obese people frequently have abnormal blood-cholesterol levels, higher blood pressure and even sometimes bigger hearts," says Gerald Fletcher, MD, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL, and a spokesperson for the American Heart Association. All of these things are risk factors for heart disease, but losing weight can help you reverse them.
•Do double duty. Overweight and obesity are independently linked to heart disease, too. "Until a few years ago, it was thought to be an indirect link (for example, excess weight causes elevated cholesterol, which causes heart disease), but now we know that even if blood pressure and cholesterol are normal, extra weight can mean extra risk for heart disease," says Karen Miller-Kovach, Weight Watchers chief scientist. So when you lose weight, you can get double and triple benefits — you'll lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, and you'll conquer a primary risk factor for heart disease.
•Work overtime. You don't have to wait for your weight goal to see a difference in your heart health. "When it comes to heart disease and weight, there's an exponential curve," says Miller-Kovach. "A little bit of extra weight increases your risk for heart disease a little bit, and vice versa." In other words, a little bit of weight loss decreases your risk a little bit.
•Add exercise to the equation. As you're losing weight, you're more likely to start exercising, which has bonuses of its own: "Exercise has been recognized as an independent positive factor to heart health," says Miller-Kovach. "We now know that exercise tends to mobilize the fat stores in the abdomen, which are the ones that put you at the greatest risk for heart disease." Plus, says Fletcher, in addition to preserving "good" cholesterol, exercise will help you control your blood pressure, among other things.
•Help at any age... "Age factors into [the weight-heart connection] prominently," says Miller-Kovach. "Being slightly obese at a younger age causes a greater increase in risk of heart disease than does being slightly obese and elderly." In other words: It's not just how much weight you have, it's how old you are. So you might reconsider the idea that there's no reason to worry about your heart until you're older.
•...and no matter who you are. Weight loss will improve the heart health of both men and women. (Women, take note: After menopause, you're just as likely as a man to suffer from heart disease.) It will also make a difference even if you're African-American, Hispanic or Native American, populations that are said to be at a higher risk for high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes.
According to a 2006 report published in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, "diet and lifestyle therapies remain the foundation of clinical intervention for prevention." In other words, while drug treatments and surgical procedures can treat cardiovascular disease, the best protection you can get comes from eating right and exercising.