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Dr. Stewart’s clinical and research interests include cardiovascular disease rehabilitation and prevention, and peripheral arterial disease. Learn more about Dr. Stewart.
Obesity plays a role in many of the risk factors that lead to heart disease. Obesity can:
“Keeping weight under control can reduce many of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease,” says Dr. Kerry J. Stewart, Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
While a low-carbohydrate or low-fat diet can help you lose weight, the relative merits of each of these types of diet on the cardiovascular system are currently being studied. A few important things to remember:
Some fats are considered healthy because they’ve been shown to reduce the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in the blood. These are the unsaturated fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated).
Omega-3 fatty acid is a type of polyunsaturated fat that helps reduce inflammation in the arteries. You’ll find it in fatty fish such as salmon, mackeral, trout, albacore tuna, and sardines. Other sources of healthy fat are beans, and nuts such as walnuts, pecans, almonds and hazelnuts.
While there is no single diet that can represent the many cultures that make up an entire region, there has been some healthy buzz about what is popularly known in the United States as the Mediterranean diet.
This type of diet incorporates naturally healthy foods and living habits such as:
It is a daily challenge to stick to any kind of weight loss plan, but you can acquire certain habits that make it easier.
Research has shown that eating and exercise habits are greatly affected by your social network. In other words, you’re more likely to exercise and eat smaller portions if you spend time with people who do the same, and vice versa. So choose some fit and healthy friends, and get your immediate family to join you and support your healthy habits.
Other ways to stick to a weight-loss plan include:
Eating lower-calorie foods and smaller quantities of them are vital to losing weight. But the additional calories that exercise helps you burn make it easier to be on the right side of the calorie equation.
Working light-to-moderate weight training into an exercise program that already includes aerobic activity (walking, jogging, cycling) adds lean muscle mass. Calories are energy that is stored in the form of fat. Muscle is the body’s engine. So the more muscle you have, the more calories you use each day, which contributes to fat loss.
Ideal body weight is just a rough guide. A more accurate gauge of ideal weight is body fat composition. Body fat norms vary by age and gender. At any age, a woman’s body is composed of more fat than a man’s.
The ideal body fat percentages are approximately 22% body fat for women and 15% for men.
A very accurate measure of body fat and bone density is a DEXA scan, an X-ray that separates muscle and fat from bone.
A BMI (body mass index) measures the ratio of height to weight. According to the American Heart Association:
Acquiring your body mass index is easy. Just search online for “BMI calculator” and enter your height and weight.
Over time, we tend to lose muscle tissue. It’s a normal condition called sarcopenia. For example, if you weigh the same at age 60 as you did at age 20, your fat content is still higher because you’ve lost muscle mass.
According to Dr. Stewart, “One way to lessen the degree to which you lose muscle is to make aerobic exercise and moderate weight training a lifelong habit.”