Is weight loss always a part of a heart-healthy diet plan?

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Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics
Usually heart healthy and weight loss go hand in hand. A heart healthy diet is usually low in saturated fats, high in fiber, fruits, and vegetables. It also contains beans and other sources of plant protein. Avoiding refined carbohydrates usually leads to weight loss. However you can still gain weight on a heart healthy diet if you over eat.
Mary A. McLaughlin, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

If you’re Body Mass Index, or BMI, is between 18.5 and 25there is no need to lose weight. If your BMI is between 25 and 29.9 you are considered overweight, while a BMI of 30 or more indicates obesity. To calculate your BMI multiply your weight in pounds by 703 and divide by your height in inches squared: 

BMI = mass (lb) x 703 / height (in) x height (in)           

or visit: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/english_bmi_calculator/bmi_calculator.html

At your healthy weight your body can more effectively circulate blood and manage fluid levels. By maintaining a healthy weight you are less likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, sleep apnea and experience joint and muscle pain. Although you may be at a healthy weight you can still improve your heart-health by eating right and exercising. As we age our muscle mass decreases so it is important to maintain our strength and metabolic rate by strength training

If you have been diagnosed with heart disease, or are interested in reducing your risk factors for heart disease, adopting and maintaining a heart-healthy diet will be an important part of the work you do toward good health. For many people, a heart-healthy diet will also focus on weight loss: obesity is prevalent in the United States and is a risk factor for heart disease. It can also contribute to high blood pressure, diabetes, and other problems. However, not everyone who is working toward heart health will necessarily need to lose weight. 
Therefore, one of the first questions to ask yourself before considering your way of eating is "Do I need to lose weight?" If you are overweight, losing 5 to 10 percent of your current weight can help lower your risk for heart disease and diabetes. You can determine your weight-related health risk using a Body Mass Indicator (BMI) Calculator, which determines if your weight-to-height ratio is healthy.
If your weight is already in the normal range, you will still want to substitute less healthy food options with heart-healthy ones such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.