8 Heart-Healthy Ways to Promote Weight Management

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A healthy lifestyle is more likely to lead to weight loss success than skipping meals or using diet pills, a new study finds. Matteo Colombo/Getty Images
  • Researchers at Ohio State University examined compliance with the American Heart Association’s Life’s Essential 8 recommendations among people with and without clinically significant weight loss.
  • They found that increased exercise and a healthy diet promote successful weight loss, while skipping meals and using prescription diet pills were not associated with long-term weight control.
  • The findings show that more adults in the United States would benefit from taking heart-healthy steps to achieve clinically significant weight loss.

In the U.S, more than 2 out of 5 adults (42.4%) are obese Obesity can lead to health problems such as type 2 diabetes (T2D), heart disease, and some cancers.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle is a key strategy to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other major health problems.

In June 2022, the American Heart Association (AHA) published “The essentials of life 8“, a checklist containing eight lifestyle recommendations to improve and maintain heart health. These are:

  1. Eat better: Eat a healthy, balanced diet consisting of nutrient-dense, unprocessed foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, plant-based proteins, lean animal proteins, skinless poultry, fish, and shellfish.
  2. Be more active: Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week.
  3. Quit tobacco: Quitting smoking is always recommended by experts to avoid numerous health problems.
  4. Get a healthy sleep: Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
  5. Manage weight: The body mass index (BMI) is often used to assess a person’s weight or body composition, although this is not the only indicator of healthy weight or obesity.
  6. Control cholesterol: Controlling your low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol) cholesterol levels is important for overall health.
  7. Control blood sugar: Tracking your hemoglobin A1c levels can help you control your blood sugar levels.
  8. Check blood pressure: Adults should maintain optimal blood pressure levels below 120/80 mm Hg.

Life’s Essential 8 recommendations are considered crucial for heart health in the US, but it is unknown if people trying to lose weight adhere to them.

Researchers at The Ohio State University (OSU) recently examined adherence to Life’s Essential 8 among people with and without clinically significant intentional weight loss.

The results confirm what many people know to be true: that increased exercise and a healthy diet promote successful weight loss.

The findings appear in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

The study, led by Colleen Spees, Ph.D., associate professor of medical dietetics, enrolled 20,305 US adults ages 19 and older. The median age was about 47 years, approximately half (49.6%) were women, and 68.7% were non-Hispanic whites.

Subjects also participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 2007 and 2016. In the survey, participants were asked about their weight in the previous year, smoking habits, physical activity, average hours of sleep per night, weight loss strategy and what they had eaten in the last 24 hours. Their BMI, blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and blood glucose were measured through health exams and laboratory tests.

The OSU researchers used NHANES data to calculate people’s Life’s Essential 8 scores and assess the quality of their diet according to the Healthy Eating Index, which measures compliance with US Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Of 20,305 people, 2,840 had intentionally lost at least 5% of their body weight in the past year. The researchers defined this as “clinically significant weight loss.”

The remaining 17,465 individuals lost less than 5% of their body weight, maintained their weight, or gained weight in the past year.

Among individuals with clinically significant weight loss, 77.6% reported exercising to lose weight, compared with only 63.1% of those who did not lose at least 5% of their weight.

The researchers also looked at individual dietary components and found that subjects with clinically significant weight loss had better diet quality in terms of total protein, refined grains, and added sugars, although they had poorer diet quality with respect to sodium. .

Compared with subjects with clinically significant weight loss, individuals who lost less than 5% of their weight were more likely to skip meals or use prescription diet pills.

In their article, Dr. Spees and co-authors stress that these strategies are not supported by scientific evidence and that “their use is associated with clinically insignificant weight loss or weight gain, weight cycling, and increased CVD risk.”

Alice H. Lichtenstein D.Sc., the Gershoff professor of nutrition science and policy and director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at Tufts University, who was not involved in the study, said today’s medical news that skipping meals and using diet pills “probably did not promote sustainable weight control because they did not result in long-term deficits in caloric intake or increased calories burned (through physical activity).”

Peter M. Clifton, Ph.D., an assistant professor of nutrition at the University of South Australia, who was not involved in the study, had a different perspective on this matter.

Dr. Clifton said that people who adhere to a healthy diet and exercise regularly are more likely to achieve successful long-term weight loss “as they have more control over their behavior.”

“Skipping meals and taking diet pills may be indicators of less control rather than methods that don’t necessarily work. They may work well on other people,” she added.

People with clinically significant weight loss reported better diet quality, more moderate and vigorous physical activity, and lower non-LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, contributing to better Life’s Essential 8 scores for diet , physical activity and blood lipids.

Still, those with clinically significant weight loss also had significantly higher BMI and blood glucose scores and reported less sleep. This translates to worse Life’s Essential 8 scores for BMI, blood glucose, and sleep health compared to people who did not lose at least 5% of their body weight.

As a result, the average Life’s Essential 8 composite score was the same for both groups: 63.0 for the group with clinically significant weight loss and 63.4 for the group that did not lose at least 5% of their body weight ( 100 being the ideal value). score).

Since the study population was representative of the US population, the results imply that cardiovascular health in the US population remains well below optimal levels. This is consistent with the conclusions of previous investigation on this issue.

“Based on the findings of this study, we have a lot of work to do as a country,” Dr. Spees stated in a press release.

The study findings highlight the need for continued efforts to promote a heart-healthy lifestyle, even among people who have achieved clinically significant weight loss.

A major limitation of this study is the cross-sectional nature of the study design.

Since the data for each individual was only collected once, the results should be interpreted with care. More research is needed on the relationship between weight loss and possible changes in health behaviors or other factors.

Another problem is that the use of self-reported data on body weight from the previous year to determine weight loss, dietary intake, physical activity, and smoking may be subject to misreporting.

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