Answers to Common Questions

Lose Weight

Learn why weight control is so important for heart disease prevention, and how to lose weight—for good!

  • What is a healthy waist circumference?
  • Waist circumference is an important tool used to assess an individual’s weight. A healthy waist circumference is less than 35 inches for women and less than 40 inches for men. Having too much fat in the waist and abdomen has been linked to increased risk for heart disease and other serious conditions, so maintaining a healthy waist circumference is important to promoting good health.
  • What is abdominal obesity?
  • Abdominal obesity is defined as having a waist circumference greater than 40 inches for a man or 35 inches for a woman. Although excess fat can have a negative impact on health, carrying extra belly fat is especially harmful, increasing risk for heart diseasediabetes and cancer, among other conditions. The good news is that losing just 3-5% of body weight can help reduce cardiovascular risk and improve overall health.
  • Is weight loss surgery safe?
  • As with all medical procedures, weight loss surgery carries certain risks and for some patients, doesn't always work as well as they might have hoped. If you’re considering weight loss surgery, it’s important to discuss all the pros and cons of treatment with your doctor.
  • What are the different types of weight loss surgery?
  • The goal of weight loss surgery is to limit the amount of food that you can ingest and/or digest. The most common types of weight loss surgery include gastric bypass, gastric banding and sleeve gastrectomy. Some types of weight loss procedures are less invasive than others and which type of surgery is best depends on each patient’s specific situation.
  • What is obesity?
  • Obesity is defined as excess body fat, which can lead to serious health consequences. Obesity is typically measured by body mass index, which measures weight in relation to height. Adults with a BMI of 30 or more are considered obese.
  • How many calories should I consume to maintain my current weight?
  • How many calories needed to maintain weight depends on a number of factors, like age, height, weight and gender. It also depends on how physically active you are, since the more active you are, the more calories you need for energy.
  • What's more important—how much I eat or what I eat?
  • When it comes to health, it’s important to watch how much you eat and find a balance between the number of calories you consume and how many you burn. But it’s also important to watch what you eat and try to eat heart-healthy foods like fruits and vegetables, whole-grains and lean protein, as much as possible.
  • What can I do to keep my weight in check?
  • Talk with your health care team. If you have or are at risk for heart disease, it is important to adopt heart healthy habits. This means being thoughtful about the kinds of foods you eat, how you prepare them and how many calories and how much fat you consume. Try to eat a low-fat diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and lean meats. You should also carve out time to exercise every day. See CardioSmart’s Eat Better and Move More areas for more information.

  • What is a healthy body mass index?
  • Body mass index, referred to as BMI, is a measurement used to estimate levels of body fat based on your height and weight. CardioSmart offers a BMI calculator to help you know your numbers. For adults, BMI under 18.5 is underweight, 18.5–24.9 is normal, 25.0–29.9 is overweight, and over 30 is considered obese.

  • Why is it important to know your BMI and waist circumference?
  • BMI can be helpful in determining if you’re a healthy weight or not, but it’s not 100% accurate. If you have very little or very high amounts of muscle, your BMI will be skewed. Also, research has shown that how we carry weight is more important than our BMI when it comes to risk for heart disease. Belly fat is a known risk factor for heart disease and carrying excess weight around the midsection raises cardiovascular risk, regardless of BMI.
  • How can I reduce my risk for heart attack?
  • You can significantly reduce risk for heart attack by knowing your numbers and addressing any cardiovascular risk factors that you may have, including hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, or smoking. You can also help reduce cardiovascular risk by maintaining a healthy weight and heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly and controlling stress.

  • What are the most common heart attack symptoms in women?
  • The most common symptoms of heart attack in women include discomfort or pressure in the chest; pain in the arms, upper back, neck, jaw or stomach; nausea or vomiting; trouble breathing; breaking out in a cold sweat; dizziness or lightheadedness; inability to sleep; unusual fatigue and clammy skin. However, women may experience all, none, many or just a few of these heart attack symptoms.
  • What if I have tried to learn more about my health but still have trouble understanding?
  • Patients who have trouble understanding their health conditions should ask for help from their health care team, whether it's a doctor, nurse or counselor. Health care providers can help point patients to a variety of resources that can cater to individual needs.
  • How can I prevent the development of "sick fat"?

  • You can help prevent adiposopathy or "sick fat" by maintaining a healthy weight through proper diet and exercise. Those who are overweight can lose weight to prevent or minimize “sick fat” in the body.

  • What is "sick fat"?

  • Adiposopathy, also known as "sick fat", is a type of fat tissue that is now considered a form of cardiovascular disease. Therefore, overweight patients without any major risk factors for heart disease, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, are still considered to have heart disease if they have “sick fat.”

  • Is the U.S. the only country combating obesity rates?

  • The U.S. is not alone. Most industrialized countries have experienced significant rises in obesity over the last 20 years. In fact, it is estimated that there are about about1 billion overweight adults globally, with at least 300 million obese. Fortunately, however, the CDC reports that other countries around the world have also had success in stabilizing obesity rates in recent years.
  • How important is maintaining a healthy weight?

  • Overweight and obesity greatly increase risk for diabetes, heart disease and a number of cancers — all of which can be life threatening. Therefore, it is important to take action toward maintaining a healthy weight, as losing just 5-10% of your weight can help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduce risk for heart disease.
  • What is a healthy weight for me?
  • A few important tools can be used to determine if an individual is underweight, normal weight or overweight. The easiest tool is a Body Mass Index, which is calculated using height and weight to estimate levels of body fat. However, Body Mass Index is not always accurate, particularly among individuals with extremely high or low amounts of muscle. In these cases, measuring waist circumference is helpful in assessing weight, as a waist circumference greater than 35 inches for a woman or 40 inches for a man is considered unhealthy.
  • How do I know if I'm overweight or obese?

  • There are a few easy ways to evaluate weight. First, you can use your height and weight to calculate your body mass index (BMI). A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is healthy, a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is overweight, and a BMI of 30 or greater is obese. And because BMI is not always a perfect assessment of weight, it is important to measure your waist circumference. A waist circumference greater than 35 inches for a woman and 40 inches for a man is overweight.
  • How does chocolate help with weight control?

  • Flavonoids are a type of nutrient found in most plants, including the cocoa bean, which may boast a number of health benefits, including improved weight control. Chocolate that is minimally processed with the greatest amount of cocoa are a good source of flavonoids.
  • How does bariatric surgery work?

  • Gastric bypass and other weight-loss surgeries work by changing your digestive system to limit how much you can eat, by reducing the absorption of nutrients, or both. Weight-loss surgeries are used when standard weight-loss therapies such as diet and exercise have failed to work.
  • How safe is bariatric surgery?

  • Bariatric surgery has become increasingly safe and effective over the years, and less invasive. Depending on the type of surgery, risk of serious complications and death is usually very low, often less than 1%.
  • Am I eligible for weight-loss surgery?

  • Weight-loss surgery is often an option for obese individuals who have not seen results with diet and exercise. However, not all patients are eligible for surgery if they have other risk factors that could complicate the procedure. If you are interested in surgery, discuss your concerns and weight-loss options with your healthcare provider.
  • How does weight-loss surgery work?

  • There are a few types of weight-loss procedures available to help patients who are very overweight lose weight, including lap banding, gastric bypass and gastric sleeve. These surgeries limit the amount of food that you can ingest, and some also restrict the amount of food that your body can digest.