Losing Weight for Heart Health

Excess weight is a major risk factor for heart disease. Losing weight has many benefits including lowering your blood pressure, improving your cholesterol level, and decreasing your risk for diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. It may help keep your arteries open so that your heart can get the oxygen-rich blood it needs. All in all, losing weight makes you healthier.

Man and woman outdoors walking a dog.

Calories and weight loss

  • Calories are the fuel your body burns for energy. You get the calories you need from the food you eat. For healthy weight loss, women should eat at least 1,200 calories a day, men at least 1,500.

  • When you eat more calories than you need, your body stores the extra calories as fat. One pound of fat equals 3,500 calories.

  • To lose weight, try to reduce your total calorie intake by 500 calories. To do this, eat 250 calories less each day. Add activity to burn the other 250 calories. Walking 2.5 miles burns about 250 calories. Other more intense activities can burn more calories in the time you spend doing them, such as swimming and running. It is important to understand that reducing calorie intake is much more effective at weight loss than is exercise.

  • Eat a variety of healthy foods to get the nutrients you need.

Tips for losing weight

  • Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day.

  • Don’t skip meals. Instead, eat smaller portions.

  • Eat your meals earlier in the day.

  • Cut out sugary drinks such as soda and fruit juices.

  • Make your later meals lighter than your earlier meals.

Brisk activity is best

Brisk activity gets your heart pumping faster and it makes it healthier. It’s also a great way to burn calories. In fact, your body may keep burning calories for hours after you stop a brisk activity:

  • Begin by walking 10 minutes most days.

  • Add more time and speed to your walk. Build up as you feel able.

  • Aim for 3 to 4 sessions of aerobic exercise a week. Each session should last about 40 minutes and include moderate to vigorous physical activity.

  • The most important part of the activity is that you break a sweat. This indicates your heart is working hard enough to burn fat.