Women and Heart Disease - Lose Just a Few Pounds for Big Improvements

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You won't believe how little weight you need to lose to improve your heart health...

But first, I have to preface this article by stating that I am an obese woman.  According to CDC guidelines for the BMI (body mass index), I have shot past overweight to obese. 

I didn't start out this way.  There was a time when I was slim and trim.  Over the years, childbearing, a sedentary lifestyle, age, and bad eating habits caught up with me. 

As an obese middle-aged woman, I will make this statement without compromise:  Obesity does not equal healthy. 

There is no getting around it - being overweight or obese increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and stroke, as well as diabetes and some cancers.  According to the journal Circulation, obesity predicts coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure is common in obese patients. 

Almost 70% of American adults are overweight or obese.  Obesity is ranked in the top three health problems in the United States.

If you are told you are "obese", that means you have a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.  BMI measures the ratio of your height and your weight.

Overweight people have a BMI of 25-29.9.

Waist circumference and where you carry fat on your body affects your risk for heart disease.  If you carry most of your extra weight around your belly, you have a higher risk than someone who carries fat on their thighs and buttocks.

A study which was conducted on over 116,000 nurses and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that women who were moderately overweight (BMI between 25 and 28.9) were twice as likely as slender women (BMI less than 21) to develop coronary artery disease (the type of heart disease responsible for heart attacks).  

Women with a BMI over 29 had four times the risk of coronary artery disease.

Research by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute adds more evidence that extra weight is bad for your heart:

In a study of over 5,000 participants, the risk of heart failure increased with each additional point of a participant's BMI (about 4 to 8 pounds).   Researchers found that the risk of heart failure was 34 percent higher for overweight individuals and 104 percent higher for people who are obese.

But there is good news...

Studies have shown that losing even a little weight can improve heart health and reduce your risk of death from heart attack.  The National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases states that losing just 5-10% of your weight can significantly reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.  For a 200 lb woman, that would mean losing just 10 to 20 pounds.

Losing just 5-10% of your weight can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease

If you are at risk for heart disease because of overweight or obesity, make small changes now to keep your ticker healthy and ticking.