By Maria Fleet
Here’s a heartfelt piece of advice from doctors who specialize in obesity and cardiovascular health: NOW is a good time to start focusing on your heart health.
Dr. Eldad Einav is very positive about helping his patients achieve better overall health. He’s chosen to practice in two specialties that are intertwined – weight management and cardiology. He was a cardiologist first – and he frequently counseled his patients to lose excess weight in order to improve their heart health. He saw over and over again that they had a hard time being successful. He knew they were motivated. He knew they tried. He knew they often did succeed – for a while – only to eventually gain the lost weight back. And, he even had his own frustrating experience with weight. “I have tried losing weight myself! I know how difficult it is even to lose 10 pounds, 20 pounds, and keep it off for a long time. This is absolutely a big, big challenge and we know that,” he says.
But it’s only recently that researchers have uncovered some of the reasons why. Losing weight can trigger a variety of hormonal responses that impede a person’s ability to achieve long-lasting weight loss. Obesity specialists can address the hormonal obstacles by recommending bariatric surgery or prescribing anti-obesity medications, along with programs that include nutritional and lifestyle advice. Obesity medicine is a new but growing specialty – and one that Dr. Einav added to his practice in order to help his patients reach a healthy weight – a gateway to better cardiovascular health.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the US. It most often shows up as a buildup of fatty deposits inside the blood vessels, and can lead to blockages of blood supply to the heart or brain, i.e., a heart attack or a stroke. Many conditions associated with obesity – high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes – are risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Einav has found that the combination of anti-obesity medications and a structured nutrition and lifestyle program is most often the sweet spot for successful sustained weight loss.
He encourages people who struggle with their weight and know they are at risk for heart disease to have a conversation with their primary care physician about the latest treatments for excess weight. Realistically speaking, he says, the sooner, the better, because it only gets harder to manage these conditions with time and age.
Cardiologist Dr. Joseph Hill agrees that addressing heart health right away is important. Dr. Hill is the Director of UT Southwestern’s Harry S. Moss Heart Center. He says taking action now is a way to redirect your health in much the same way smokers do when they quit. “The way we measure someone’s exposure to tobacco – to smoking – is in ‘pack years’. Now we think about…‘LDL years,’” he explains. LDL cholesterol is the so-called “bad cholesterol” that builds up in blood vessels. Keeping your LDL level below 100 should be the goal, says Dr. Hill. “And losing weight is critical to that. Absolutely fundamental to that,” he emphasizes.
In Dr. Einav’s practice, to help his patients reach a healthier weight, he generally starts them on anti-obesity medications at the same time they begin a combined nutrition and exercise program. In his experience, patients realize some success early on, and they’re encouraged to stick with the program long-term. “All of the sudden patients can see, ‘Oh, I can achieve that – it’s achievable,” he says.
That kind of success puts their weight loss goals in reach, and in turn significantly reduces their risk of heart disease. It’s a win-win.
The first step is talking to your family doctor about how they can help you reach a healthier weight and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. If your doctor isn’t familiar with anti-obesity medications or other treatments that are available, they may be able to help you find a weight management specialist in your area – click here to find one near you.
Click here for a helpful guide to having a conversation with your doctor.
For many people, diet and exercise alone are not enough to reach a healthier weight. There are now safe and effective non-surgical medical treatments that have been proven to help people be successful over the long-run. Talk to your doctor or check out our physician locator to find a doctor near you who specializes in the medical treatment of weight.
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This article was sponsored by Novo Nordisk Canada. All content is created independently by My Weight – What To Know with no influence from Novo Nordisk.