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Understanding the Link Between Weight and Heart Disease

Posted on February 1, 2019 by Gerald Sotsky, M.D., Chair of Cardiac Services for Valley Medical Group and Director of the Valley Health System/Cleveland Clinic Affiliation

Today the Cleveland Clinic released the results of their annual survey on heart disease, this one focusing on the link between heart disease and weight.  The survey found that while most Americans (88 percent) understand that being overweight raises the risk for heart disease, most aren’t doing enough — or anything — to combat their weight issues.

Specifically, the survey found that 74 percent are concerned about their weight and 65 percent are worried about their risk for heart disease due to their extra pounds, yet less than half (43 percent) of Americans have tried to make dietary changes to lose weight.  In addition, 40 percent of those who describe themselves as overweight or obese say they are not careful about which foods they eat.
 
I think that part of the problem may be that Americans are not sure what to eat for heart health. For example, the Cleveland Clinic survey found that 18 percent believe their diet had nothing to do with heart health, and few know what is the best diet to follow for heart health.
 
The Cleveland Clinic survey also revealed that most Americans do not fully understand the impact that being overweight can have on their overall health. For example, 87 percent fail to link obesity to cancer and 80 percent do not understand the link between excess weight and atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm abnormality.  More than half (54 percent) do not realize that obesity is linked to high “bad” cholesterol levels and 64 percent don’t know it can lead to a stroke.
 
We need to do a better job of educating our patients and the public about the significant health consequences associated with carrying excess weight and the health benefits they will achieve by maintaining a healthy weight. Quick weight-loss programs don’t work.  
 
Valley offers a number of resources for people who want to learn how to eat a healthy diet and lose weight.  These include A Recipe for Life, our outpatient nutrition counseling program, and The Center for Bariatric Surgery and Weight-Loss Management
 

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