If you are more than 30 pounds/13.5 kg overweight, you are at higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Shape is also an important factor. Excess weight around your middle (waist, abdomen and upper body) puts you at even greater risk than if you are generally overweight. Your risk can be determined by your waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). Losing excess weight can help control other risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Here are some of the things that you can do to better manage your health:
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight through healthy eating and physical activity
- Calculate your WHR:
To determine your ratio, divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement
(For example, waist 34 ÷ hips 38 = 0.89)
Healthy WHR for women is less than .85, and for men less than 1.00.
Managing your weight = Managing your health!
- Lose weight slowly. Make your goal of obtaining a healthy weight a long-term commitment.
- Drink 8 – 10 cups/2L – 2.5L of water daily.
- Eat healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, more complex carbohydrates (whole-wheat pasta, brown rice), and more fibre (whole grain breads and cereals).
- Reduce fat in your diet, especially saturated fats. Choose lean meats and low-fat dairy foods.
- Watch your portion sizes. Divide your dinner plate into four sections. Fill ½ with vegetables; ¼ with meat/alternatives; and the other ¼ with complex carbohydrates (breads/grains/cereals).
- If overeating is your way of coping with stress, identify the source of your stress and learn new ways to cope (i.e. instead of reaching out for more food, go for a walk or take a hot bath).
Being overweight increases your risk factors for many diseases, such as:
High Blood Pressure
According to The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, high blood pressure (hypertension) damages blood vessel walls. It leaves scars that promote the build-up of fatty plaque on artery walls. It also puts extra strain on the heart and eventually weakens it. Very high blood pressure can even cause blood vessels in the brain to burst. High blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke and increases the risk of heart disease up to four times.
Monitor and manage your blood pressure:
- If you smoke, work hard on quitting. Smoking increases blood pressure.
- If you are overweight, lose the excess weight.
- Participate in regular exercise, e.g. walk, dance, skate, just start moving and stay active.
- Drink little or no alcohol. If you do drink alcohol, limit yourself to one drink per day.
- Check your blood pressure regularly and keep a record of the date, time, and the reading.
- If you have been prescribed medication for high blood pressure (e.g. a water pill), take it exactly as prescribed.
- If you have high blood pressure or have a family history of high blood pressure, your doctor may suggest that you cut down on the amount of salt you eat. Excessive salt may increase blood pressure. Blood pressure increases as the volume of fluid in the blood increases. Salt exacerbates water retention. Every cell in the body is bathed in a salty fluid – the more salt in that fluid, the more water the body needs to dilute it to maintain a balanced sodium concentration.
Watch your intake of salty foods such as pickles, luncheon meats, cheese, canned fish, soups, and vegetables. Of course, fast foods and processed foods such as prepackaged frozen dinners, are usually high in sodium and should not make up much of your meal selections.
High Blood Cholesterol
Cholesterol is a group of blood fats. It includes LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, HDL (“good”) cholesterol and triglycerides (TG). LDL promotes the build up of fatty plaque inside arteries while HDL protects arteries from plaque build up. TGs are a blood fat that may be more of a danger for women than men. High TG levels are linked with excess weight, drinking excess alcohol and having diabetes. High blood cholesterol contributes to blocked and narrowed arteries. This increases the chance of stroke and heart disease. Diet and/or medication can often help balance the body’s natural production of cholesterol.
Monitor and manage your cholesterol:
- Reduce your intake of all fat, particularly saturated fat (solid at room temperature and found in animal sources: butter, lard, chicken skin, fat on meats, fat in milk, yogurt, and cheese, etc.).
- Decrease your fat intake to 30% or less of your daily calories. (The Healthy Options Program does this for you.)
- Eat more grains, high-fibre cereals, fruits, and vegetables.
- Use low-fat cooking methods such as baking, broiling, steaming. Avoid fried foods.
- Do not eat more than 2 – 3 whole eggs per week.
- If you smoke, quit! Smoking increases “bad” LDL levels in the blood.
- Get active! Exercise at least 30 minutes, three to five times per week.
- If you have a family history of high cholesterol, heart disease, or stroke, or if you are postmenopausal, ask your doctor about having your cholesterol level tested.
- If you are on cholesterol-lowering medication, take it exactly as directed by your doctor.
Diabetes is when the body can’t process sugar properly. Adult On-set/Type 2 diabetes often develops in overweight adults. This type of diabetes can sometimes be eliminated or controlled by diet and weight loss. Diabetes results in circulation problems due to blood vessel damage. Women with diabetes are especially at risk, as high blood pressure and high cholesterol tend to go hand in hand with diabetes in women.
Reduce your risk/Manage blood sugar levels:
- If you have a family history of diabetes and/or are overweight, ask your doctor to test your blood sugar levels.
- Losing weight, if you are overweight.
- Eat a balanced diet, reduce fat and eat more high-fibre foods and complex carbohydrates (whole grains).
- Reduce your intake of highly sugared, and highly refined foods.
- Get active. If it is okay with your doctor, exercise at least 30 minutes, 3 – 5 times weekly.
- If you are diabetic, monitor your blood sugar at home. If your doctor has prescribed medication to control your diabetes, take it exactly as directly.
Information adapted from The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario.