Lose weight for a healthy heart. Take action – weigh up the risks
Did you know that, according to a study published last year in The Lancet, South Africa has the highest overweight and obesity rates in sub-Saharan Africa?
Unfortunately, with overweight and obesity comes an increased risk for developing high blood pressure (hypertension) and high cholesterol – among other health risks. If left unchecked, these conditions can lead to a life-threatening heart attack or stroke.
What’s more, research shows that obesity in itself is a risk factor for fatal heart attacks – even if you don’t have high blood pressure or high cholesterol. And if you carry most of your weight around your waist (i.e. you have an apple instead of a pear shape), you’re definitely at risk.
Take a load off your heart by taking the first steps to lose weight, especially around your waist. September, Heart Awareness Month, is the perfect time to get a new lease on life!
Step 1: Find out if you’re overweight
Not sure if you’re overweight or whether your heart may be at risk?
Ask your doctor to calculate your body mass index (BMI) and to measure your waistline at least once a year. Alternatively, you can use an online calculator to determine these values yourself.
A BMI of 25-29.9 means you’re overweight, while a BMI of 30 or greater means you’re obese. For women, a waist circumference of 80cm or more means you’re at increased risk for heart disease; if you’re a man, your risk increases if your waist circumference is 94cm or more.
If you’re overweight or obese, it’s important to take action without delay.
Step 2: Be active
To prevent further weight gain or to lose weight, you should try to engage in at least 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity every day. The activity should be intense enough to make you breathe slightly harder, but shouldn’t leave you breathless or unable to carry on a conversation.
The good news is that you don’t have to get all your exercise in one go. Ten minutes of activity at a time is fine – just make sure your physical activity sessions add up to the total recommended minutes on most days.
Walking the dog, gardening, doing ballroom dancing, playing bowls, cleaning the house, playing with the grandchildren and swimming are all great, healthy ways of getting more exercise in your senior years.
Just remember to always talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise programme. This is particularly important if you have existing health problems.
Step 3: Eat smart
A balanced diet is as important when it comes to weight management as regular physical activity. Commit to healthy eating – for life! Set a weight-loss goal, keep track of your progress and follow these simple steps:
- Enjoy a variety of foods
- Make starchy foods (e.g. whole-wheat bread, breakfast cereals, pasta, wraps, brown rice and starchy vegetables such as potatoes and sweet potatoes) part of most meals (just remember to keep those portions small)
- Eat fish (e.g. pilchards and salmon), chicken (without the skin), lean meat (e.g. steak with fat trimmed, lean mince, ostrich) or eggs daily
- Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit every day
- Eat dry beans, split peas, lentils and soya regularly
- Have milk, maas (amazi) or yoghurt every day
- Use salt and food high in salt sparingly.
- Eat fats sparingly and choose vegetable oils (e.g. tub margarine, canola oil, olive oil, sunflower oil) rather than hard fats.
- Use foods and drinks containing sugar sparingly, and not between meals.
- Drink lots of clean, safe water.
REMEMBER: For every kilogram you lose, you can reduce your waist circumference by about 1cm. And the smaller your waistline, the healthier your heart!
Mediclinic Prime supports Heart & Stroke Awareness Month
by offering free blood pressure and cholesterol screening tests
during the month of September