Study links weight, heart conditions and overall health

Dr. Steven Nissen, chairman of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic

Nearly one in five people surveyed as part of a Cleveland Clinic report do not believe their diet is related to their heart health.

The clinic conducted the survey in the United States as part of its “Love your Heart” consumer education campaign in celebration of this February’s Heart Month.

The study found most people understand that there is a connection between a healthy heart and healthy weight, yet most are not doing enough – or anything – to combat their own weight issues.

The report showed that less than half those surveyed (43 percent) had tried to make dietary changes to lose weight and 40 percent of those who describe themselves as overweight or obese say they are not careful about which foods they eat.

“Part of the problem may be that most people aren’t sure what to eat for heart health. Nearly one-in-five (18 percent) surveyed believe their diet has nothing to do with their heart health, and a mere 14 percent knew that a Mediterranean diet is healthiest for heart health,” according to a press release detailing the results of the survey.

The survey also revealed that people do not fully understand the impact excess weight has on their heart and overall health. The overwhelming majority of those surveyed (87 percent) failed to link obesity to cancer, while 80 percent did not link obesity to atrial fibrillation.

More than half also did not know that obesity is linked to high “bad” cholesterol levels (54 percent) or coronary artery disease (57 percent) and two-thirds (64 percent) did not know it can lead to a stroke.

“It seems we are not grasping that the leading causes of death and disability – stroke, cancer, coronary artery disease – are all adversely affected by increased weight,” said Dr. Steven Nissen, chairman of cardiovascular medicine at Cleveland Clinic, in the press release.

“We need to do a better job of educating patients and the public about the major consequences of carrying excess weight and the benefits of losing weight. A patient only needs to lose 5 percent of their body weight to start seeing important health benefits,” he added.

Most surveyed believe their metabolism is detrimental to weight loss – 60 percent of women and 46 percent of men surveyed say their metabolism is working against them. According to Dr. Nissen, “Once you’ve been overweight, your body tries to hold on to that excess fat, making it more difficult to lose weight. It’s best to work with your physician to develop a steady long-term weight loss plan that will help you keep off the pounds. Quick weight loss programs are not effective.”

Almost half surveyed (45 percent) falsely believed that all types of fat put them at equal risk for heart disease; however, numerous studies have shown that fat stored in the abdomen is the most dangerous.

And while 44 percent of those surveyed said they were most likely to turn to their physician for nutrition advice, only a quarter (28 percent) have told their doctor they’d like to lose weight. Even less (22 percent) say they have discussed heart health in relation to their weight with their doctor.

Iinterventional cardiology specialist Dr. Robert Cubeddu from Cleveland Clinic Florida will join other experts at the Cayman Heart Fund International Symposium next month.

The online survey was conducted among a national probability sample consisting of 1,002 adults aged 18 and older, living in the continental United States.