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The Real Gains From Losing Weight

By Jenn Horton
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD

You don’t have to sign on to a grueling diet plan or drop a large amount of weight to see changes in your blood pressure and overall health. Here we break down the three biggest payoffs from taking off even a few pounds.

1. Improved Lifestyle

“The greatest gains have more to do with a lower risk of heart attack and stroke,” says James Beckerman, MD, cardiologist at the Providence St. Vincent Heart Clinic in Portland, OR. But the benefits go beyond your heart: Even a slight weight loss means more energy and the ability to do more activities. Plus, when you can do more, you’ll boost your confidence and general quality of life.

2. (Almost) Instant Gratification

Being overweight strains your heart, which can lead to a host of health problems, including heart disease. But you don’t need to take off 50 pounds to see an improvement. Losing as little as 10 pounds can lower your blood pressure and begin to reduce the strain.

3. Better Numbers in 30 Days

Watching what you eat will have the biggest impact on your blood pressure, but exercise is also an essential ingredient for success. Working out can lower blood pressure by as much as five to seven points. And you can see these results just one month after increasing your activity.

Aim for 30 minutes of activity a day, Beckerman says. Low-intensity exercises like walking and swimming are simple ways to begin a routine and possibly see promising changes at your next doctor’s visit.

How to Lose For Good

Staying on track can be tricky, but it’s the best way to hold on to the health benefits you gain from dropping some pounds. Here are five tips to help you stick with your weight loss plan:

1. Give the DASH diet a try. The plan was developed to help lower blood pressure without medication but is now a favorite for anyone who wants to lose weight. “[Think] less processed food, less sodium, and more fruits and vegetables,” Beckerman says. There’s also an emphasis on high fiber and less fat and sodium.

2. Set specific, realistic goals. Start by walking 30 minutes, 3 days a week.

3. Establish a support network. Make sure friends, family, and your doctors are all aware of your goals and are on board to cheer and encourage.

4. Keep a food and exercise log for motivation and to track what’s working and what’s not.

5. Celebrate success with non-food rewards. Make a list of realistic “treats” when you hit milestones, even after your initial weight loss goal. Maintained for a month? 6 months? Take yourself out for an outing, massage, or personal time away from daily stresses.

Reviewed on June 21, 2014

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