According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the top killer in the United States, causing one in four deaths annually. There are numerous strategies that can increase prevention, and a new study suggests weight loss is one of them.
Presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, the research looked at cardiovascular risk factors in just over 20,000 U.S. adults age 20 to 69. Researchers compared those who used to be obese but had lost the weight to those who had always been at a weight classified as normal. They also assessed heart disease risk factors—high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes—to a group who currently had obesity.
Those with significant weight loss had the same level of risk for high blood pressure and high cholesterol as those who had always been at a normal weight. That means losing weight can bring down your chances of being affected by heart disease and may reverse that disease if you already have it since your risk factors change, according to lead author Maia Smith, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at St. George’s University in Grenada.
“The key takeaway here is that weight loss is important for cardiovascular health,” she says. “Weight loss is hard, and so is keeping it off once you’ve lost it. But don’t despair. If you do manage to lose weight, it can not only prevent but reverse significant health effects.”
This study joins ample previous research making the same connection. A recent statement by the American Heart Association published in the journal Circulation noted that abdominal obesity is especially problematic and that efforts to not just lose weight but also change body composition could have a notable effect on reducing health risks.
One more nudge toward weight loss now rather than longer into the future is when diabetes is put into the equation, Smith adds. In the study, people who had lost weight had three times higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who had always maintained a healthy weight. However, those who were currently obese were seven times more likely to develop the disease than the normal weight group.
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