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Gain some weight back? Your heart may still thank you

A young woman walks up a spiral staircase while smiling and holding a stack of textbooks
OSF Healthcare
A young woman walks up a spiral staircase while smiling and holding a stack of textbooks

Health care experts will tell you it’s a good idea to get to a healthy weight and stay there. But we all know that’s easier said than done. There’s some good news, though, for people who put a little bit of weight back on. Study findings released in 2023 found the decreased risk for heart disease and diabetes continued despite re-gaining some pounds.

Laurinda Harjai, APRN, a cardiology provider at OSF HealthCare, says the study should be a reminder to all: don’t give up on daily habits that can lead to better heart health and a longer, happier life.

“It’s never too late to take time for your health,” Harjai says.

Weight loss and weight gain

Harjai says weight gain leads to higher blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol levels.

“For people who are obese, often their dietary choices increase their blood sugar. They may develop diabetes,” Harjai adds.

All of this brings an increased risk for heart disease, she says.

Conversely, Harjai tells patients all the time that just losing a bit of weight will help return those levels – blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar – to normal.

“Maybe even reverse diabetes,” Harjai adds. “Maybe they had been on medications and now are able to come off.”

Everyday tasks, like walking up stairs, will also be easier with weight loss.

Interpreting the study

Harjai says the study results released in 2023 seem to be on the right track. She says any time you can decrease your heart disease risk, it’s worth it. For example, Harjai says if a person has multiple risk factors for 20 years but in-between has five years of healthy habits, overall long-term health can improve.

“Maybe you gained weight again, but you know how to be healthy,” Harjai says. “Make a new plan. Get a [workout] partner or program. Join a gym.

“It’s OK to start over again,” she adds. “We all can make a mistake today, but tomorrow is a new day.”

Harjai says improving your heart health doesn’t have to be intimidating. There are obvious things like ditching the cigarettes. But small, daily tasks can add up. Try parking further away in the parking lot or taking the stairs to get some extra steps. Make healthy choices at the grocery store. That way, Harjai says, if you indulge in an after-dinner snack, at least it’s a healthy option.

Read more about keeping your heart healthy on the OSF HealthCare website. If you have questions about heart health, losing weight or healthy eating, talk to your primary care provider, a cardiologist or a dietitian.

OSF HealthCare, an integrated health system owned and operated by The Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, Peoria, Illinois. OSF HealthCare is a not-for-profit Catholic health care organization that operates a medical group, hospital system, and other health care facilities in Illinois and Michigan. Headquartered in Peoria, Illinois, OSF HealthCare is owned and operated by the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis.
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