Weight Management for Heart Health

Most people know that being overweight can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and many other chronic conditions. The good news is that studies show that even moderate weight loss can improve heart health, plus healthy habits that result in weight loss can improve your overall health as well. 

Here are three key things to consider regarding weight management for heart health. 

Eat a balanced diet

A healthy, balanced diet for heart health includes lean protein, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lots of colorful fruits and vegetables. For each meal, fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables, such as a salad, steamed broccoli, or a mix of roasted vegetables. Then fill one fourth of your plate with a lean protein, such as fish or chicken, and the other one fourth with a whole grain. A serving of low-fat dairy, such as milk or unsweetened yogurt, rounds out your meal. 

For most people, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a restaurant meal or a delicious dessert every now and then, but do so in moderation. If most of your meals are a balanced plate with foods full of nutrients and fiber, an occasional treat should be okay.

Stay active with moderate exercise

Moderate weight loss can improve your heart health, and moderate exercise can help you achieve that goal. You don’t have to head out the front door and run a half marathon to benefit your heart. Simple aerobic activities like walking, biking, water aerobics, or taking a group class at a fitness center can get your heart rate up to improve cardiovascular health and help you lose weight.

Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week at minimum. For weight loss, you may need to increase it to 60 minutes per day most days of the week. 

Set realistic goals

At times, people may decide to lose weight and jump headfirst into a strict diet and rigorous exercise plan. However, such drastic change often isn’t sustainable. If you’re seeking to lose weight for heart health, set realistic goals and create a plan that you can stick with. 

That might mean starting with something small, like taking a 10-minute walk most mornings when you first start and working up to longer walks, such as 30 minutes per day. Or, if you start with diet changes, swap refined grains (white bread, white rice) for whole grains (100% whole wheat bread or brown rice) and make sure you have a fruit or vegetable with every meal or snack. Then work up to having a balanced plate at every meal.

By starting small and changing your habits over time, you can be successful in losing weight to improve your heart health. Talk to your Oklahoma Heart Hospital doctor about resources that may be available to help you along the way.