Obesity and Heart Health
Written by Dr. Lara-Breitinger. Kyla Lara-Breitinger, MD, MS is an advanced cardiology fellow in Preventive Cardiology and Advanced Echocardiography.
Obesity, which is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of ≥30, increases your risk for coronary heart disease, heart failure, and atrial fibrillation.
Consider these 10 tips for reducing calorie intake, and the risk of cardiovascular disease:
- Stay hydrated: Do a mental “check in” with yourself and make sure you are properly hydrated. Many people mistake thirst for hunger and end up snacking on ultra-processed foods. Consider setting a goal of 8-10 glasses of water, or other hydrating beverages, per day.
- Stay away from sugar-sweetened beverages and remember to eat your calories, not drink them: You’ll be surprised by how many calories you can save by simply avoiding drinking caloric beverages like regular soda, fruit juices, sweet teas, sweetened coffee/espresso drinks, and alcohol.
- Do not overly restrict calories during the day: Many people successfully limit calories throughout the workday by keeping themselves busy and occupied. However, by the evening they may end up feeling overly hungry and consume larger portions of high calorie items. Spread your calorie intake evenly throughout the day, however it works best for you.
- Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and/or vegetables every day: Achieving this goal is not only heart protective but the fiber in fruits and vegetables will keep you fuller longer, while also maintaining a healthy gut.
- Be mindful of complete elimination: Let’s face it, eliminating carbohydrates as a whole is not sustainable. However, you can make small changes to reduce your intake of excess calories from processed foods like simply carbohydrates. Examples may include eating an “open faced” sandwich (throwing away half of the bread or bun), selecting fruit or vegetables for snacks, or limiting desserts to 1-2 x/week.
- Go grocery shopping on a full stomach and with a plan: Studies have shown that people tend to buy less healthy, more processed foods when they grocery shop while hungry and if they don’t come prepared with a plan.
- Know your ‘why’ Try to find why you are eating at certain times of the day. Are you thirsty? Are you bored? Are you feeling a certain negative emotion that results in emotional eating? By identifying your reason for eating, you can start to develop the skills for mindful eating, so you don’t grab a snack as a knee jerk reaction.
- Keep a food diary: By listing out what we eat and at what time, we’re able to reflect and find patterns that lead to less healthy choices, or higher calorie meals and snacks.
- Keep it moving: Daily exercise of at least 30 minutes of cardio and at least 2-3 sessions a week of resistance/weight training is recommended. If this seems overwhelming, make strides to simply move more during your day while working up to longer durations of intentional exercise.
- Seek professional help for weight loss: If you’ve given it your best shot to do it on your own and you haven’t reached your goals, set up an appointment with your primary care provider who can connect you with a dietitian, behavioral therapist, or obesity specialist who can walk you through other treatments and options to assist with long-term weight management.
Lastly, know this: Weight loss is a marathon and not a sprint. There will be times in your life where unexpected stressors present barriers to achieving your goals. Re-center yourself and remind yourself of the motivations and non-weight goals you’ve set for yourself.
What are your "whys" for weight management?