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Weight and Heart Disease

Getting Started With Weight Loss

Anyone who has ever tried to lose weight -- and keep it off -- knows that it can be quite a challenge. Here are some tips to help you succeed:
 
  • Eat for health. Choose a wide variety of low-calorie, nutritious foods in moderate amounts. Include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free milk, as well as fish, lean meat, poultry, or dry beans. Choose foods that are low in fat and added sugars. Choose sensible food portions.

 

  • Watch calories. To lose weight, most overweight people will need to cut 500 to 1,000 calories per day from their current diet.

 

  • Keep milk on the menu. Don't cut out milk products as you try to reduce calories and fat. Milk and milk products are rich in calcium, a nutrient that helps prevent the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis.

 

  • Instead, choose low-fat or fat-free milk and milk products, which have the same amount of calcium as whole-milk products. Make the switch gradually. If you are used to drinking whole milk, first cut back to 2 percent, then move to 1 percent, and finally to fat-free milk.

 

  • Keep moving. Physical activity is a key to successful, long-term weight loss. It can help you burn calories, trim extra fat from your waist, and control your appetite. It can also tone your muscles and increase aerobic fitness. To lose weight and to prevent further weight gain, gradually build up to at least 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity on most, and preferably all, days of the week. If you've lost weight, in order to keep it off, you'll need to do even more physical activity -- from 60 to 90 minutes of moderately intense physical activity a day. But you don't need to run yourself ragged. A recent study showed that moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, helps people lose weight as effectively as more vigorous exercise.
 (Click Heart Disease and Exercise for more information.) 
  • Steer clear of fast food. A single meal from a fast food restaurant may contain as many calories as you need for a whole day! A recent study showed that young adults who eat frequently at fast food restaurants gain more weight and are at higher risk for diabetes in middle age than those who avoid the fast food habit. If you do eat at a fast food restaurant, choose salads and grilled foods, and keep portion sizes small. Ask for salad dressings, mayonnaise, and other high-fat condiments to be served on the side -- or not at all.

 

  • Know about medicines. If you are very overweight, or if you are overweight and have other weight-related risk factors or diseases, your doctor may advise you to take a medicine to help you take off pounds. You should use a weight-loss drug only after you have tried a low-calorie diet, more moderately intense physical activity, and other lifestyle changes for six months without successfully losing weight. Because weight-loss medicines have side effects, you should consider all of the risks and benefits before trying one of them. 
These drugs should be used along with a low-calorie eating plan and regular physical activity, not as a substitute for these lifestyle changes.
  • Get support. Tell your family and friends about your weight-loss plans, and let them know how they can be most helpful to you. Some people also find it useful to join a structured weight-loss program. The most effective groups provide support and advice for permanently changing eating and physical activity habits.

 

  • Lock in your losses. After reaching your weight-loss goal, switch your efforts to keeping the weight off by continuing to eat a nutritious, lower-calorie diet and getting regular physical activity. To maintain your weight, you'll need to become even more active than before: Aim for 60 to 90 minutes of physical activity per day.

While this may seem like a tall order, remember that you can count the activities that you're already doing. Common daily activities, such as climbing stairs, pushing a stroller, unloading groceries, gardening, and brisk walking, all count as physical activity. Just be sure you do enough of them! 

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