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Your Healthy Family: Americans not doing enough about weight, heart health

COLORADO SPRINGS – According to a new 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.

Dr. Kevin Shortt, MD cardiac surgeon with UCHealth Memorial who did not take part in the survey, says that there one one important factor everyone should be aware of when it comes to heart health.

“The simplest thing that I would say is related to almost all heart disease is blood pressure, and blood pressure control.  It has the moniker as a silent killer because many people can walk around with hypertension and not have any idea. We know that hypertension is a risk factor for many, many forms of heart disease.”

The Cleveland Clinic also 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.

UCHealth is a proud sponsor of Your Healthy Family

Ira Cronin

Ira Cronin

Ira Cronin anchors News5 Today everyday morning from 4:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. with Brie Groves, and produces Your Healthy Family stories.
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