Americans not doing enough about weight, heart health

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(CLEVELAND CLINIC) – If you’re trying to lose weight, you’re not alone. A new survey shows many Americans are concerned about their weight, but don’t truly understand how it impacts heart health and other diseases.

According to the Cleveland Clinic survey, almost 75 percent of Americans are worried about their weight, and 65 percent are concerned that being overweight could lead to heart disease – but many choose to do nothing about it.

“Doing nothing is going to shorten your life; it’s going to reduce the quality of your life,” said Steven Nissen, M.D., chairman of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic. “There are many consequences of being overweight.”  

The survey also shows one-in-five Americans incorrectly believes diet has no impact on heart health; and almost half think using artificial sweeteners is a healthy way to lose weight.

“Actually, the science says that doesn’t seem to work, that presumably, when you eat something sweet it stimulates the appetite whether it’s a real sugar sweetener, or an artificial sweetener – so that’s a huge problem,” said Dr. Nissen.

In addition, results show one-third of people believe they need to lose large amounts of weight to improve heart health.

“There’s lots of data to suggest that as little as five percent weight loss can actually lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol, and improve heart health,” Dr. Nissen said.

The survey showed many Americans don’t realize fat tissue harms the heart and excess weight is linked to cancer, atrial fibrillation, high cholesterol, stroke and coronary artery disease.

And two-in-five people believe exercise equals a healthy heart – even if someone is overweight.

“There’s a lot of misunderstanding about whether you can be ‘fit and fat’,” said Dr. Nissen. The data suggests that it’s better if you exercise, but exercising doesn’t make the effects of being overweight go away.”

Dr. Nissen said the best way to improve heart health is to lose weight slowly by consuming fewer calories and burning more.

“Take it one step at a time; set a realistic goal, even if that’s only five or ten pounds, and try and get there – don’t be in a hurry,” he said.

Dr. Nissen recommends adhering to the Mediterranean diet and urges people to avoid fad diets, which often lead to frustration and weight rebound.

He said a little exercise, such as a walk after dinner, can go a long way to burning a few extra calories.

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