According to the American Heart Association (AHA), obesity is an epidemic in America both for adults and children. The complications of obesity include high cholesterol, high blood pressure and insulin resistance. These same factors also increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease.
However, fad diets and supplements do not provide a lifelong solution. The only means to maintain a healthy weight is good nutrition, calorie intake management and physical activity.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute states that overweight is having extra body weight from muscle, bone, fat and/or water. Obesity is having a high amount of body fat. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data from 2007-08, the overall prevalence of overweight and obesity for adults was 68 percent. Among adolescents ages 12 to 19, the incidence of obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years.
Looking at Numbers and Quality of Life
The AHA indicates that a person’s Body Mass Index (BMI) can help determine if weight is at a healthy point. This is a numerical value of weight in relation to height. A BMI of less than 25 indicates a healthy weight, while a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or more indicates obesity.
Knowing one’s BMI can be a starting point for weight management and improving heart health. Excess weight essentially increases the heart’s work. It also raises blood pressure, blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. As such, maintaining a healthy weight means more than improved energy and smaller clothing sizes. The AHA states losing weight improves the following quality-of-life factors:
- Fewer joint and muscle pains
- Better regulation of bodily fluids and blood pressure
- Reduced burden on heart and circulatory system
- More effective metabolism of sugars and carbohydrates
- Reduced risk for heart disease and certain cancers
Losing weight can also help lower cholesterol. Shedding as little as 5 to 10 pounds can make a viable difference. The Mayo Clinic recommends persons take an honest look at their eating habits and daily routines. If a person eats when he or she is bored, for example, a walk might be a better option. Similarly, if fast food is the norm for lunch, a healthier meal can be packed at home.
Steps to Control Weight
The combination of many different factors influences a person’s weight. According to the Mayo Clinic, these factors include genetics, family history, environment, metabolism, and habits. The one area in which a person can exercise his or her control is with habits.
Understanding energy balance is crucial for healthy weight management. The AHA states, “The amount of energy or calories you get from food and drinks (energy IN) is balanced with the energy your body uses for things like breathing, digesting, and being physically active (energy OUT).” The same amount of energy IN and energy OUT over time will maintain weight. More energy IN than OUT over time equals weight gain, while more energy OUT than IN over time equals weight loss.
Regular physical activity is a key component to reaching healthy weight goals. A routine of 30 to 60 minutes on most days can also lower blood pressure in just a few weeks. Even moderate activity for 10 minute intervals can help with weight loss. The Mayo Clinic recommends that persons speak with their doctor before starting an exercise program so that exercise restrictions can be implemented accordingly.
Where food is concerned, the Mayo Clinic suggests keeping a food and exercise diary to record daily meals and physical activity. This can shed surprising light on true habits and helps people understand what they eat, how much, when and why.
Another recommendation from the Mayo Clinic is to be a smart shopper and to make shopping lists before going to the supermarket. Persons should also read food labels and stick to a healthy eating plan at restaurants.