New year, new you: maintaining a healthy weight – British Heart Foundation


Posted: January 15, 2020 at 8:47 pm

We all make New Years resolutions. This year, I will read more books. I will go on more adventures. I will be kinder to myself and others.

This year, I will be healthier.

Its often easier said than done but maintaining a healthy weight can help you have a healthy heart.

Its a new year with new beginnings, and you might be looking to start a weight loss programme focusing on dietary changes and increased physical activity. Yes, the new you is someone who is inspired by an early morning run and a salad instead of pizza for dinner.

Its motivating to know that these programmes are commonly prescribed to decrease a persons weight and risk of heart and circulatory diseases. However, its also true that people often regain some or all of the weight they lost, which can put people off from even attempting to lose weight. So, what do you do? How and where do you start? Does the outcome vary depending on the programme you use?

Dr Jamie Hartmann-Boyce and her team at the University of Oxford are on the case. In a project funded by the BHF, their aim is to understand how peoples weight, health, and quality of life changes in the long term after completing a weight loss programme. In brief, they will evaluate over 300 different studies of weight management programmes to see how these affect heart and circulatory health. This will also help work out if there are long-term benefits of prescribing these programmes to prevent heart and circulatory diseases.

If your new years resolution is to lose weight or be healthier, then you might want to seek the advice of a registered dietitian or nutritionist who will be able to guide you. GPs should also be able to help you, although its been found that they seldom give advice because they dont feel they know how to inspire people to lose weight.

Luckily, researchers funded by the BHF are trying to change that. In a project led by Professor Paul Aveyard, researchers will analyse over 200 recorded consultations where doctors offered advice on how to lose weight. They will then see how people felt afterwards, and what they did about their weight in the following months. Here, the aim is to identify the most effective words, tone, phrases and approach that GPs could use to motivate people to lose weight.

They hope to use this information to create training videos to help give GPs the confidence and skills needed to support people who want to lose weight.

New years resolution or not, its always important to eat a balanced diet to make sure you get all the nutrients you need to keep your body healthy. You may already know that chocolate, ice cream and peanut butter are all foods that are high in fat. But you might not know that these are also some of the most common food cravings women experience during pregnancy.

BHF-funded researchers are trying to understand more about obesity during pregnancy, and how this comes with short and long-term health risks for both the mother and the child. For example, the children of women who were overweight or obese during pregnancy are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure and, therefore, heart and circulatory diseases in later life.

Professor Susan Ozanne at the University of Cambridge is looking into why this happens. Specifically, Professor Ozanne and her team are studying measurements in a group of women and their children, and also in pregnant obese mice, to understand how being obese when youre pregnant affects your babys heart health.

Is it possible for antioxidants (natural chemicals that are thought to protect against harmful substances called free radicals) to prevent the negative effects of maternal obesity? What about exercise? In this BHF-funded project, the aim is to reduce the risk of heart and circulatory diseases in children born to overweight or obese mothers. Meanwhile, researchers at Kings College London are also looking into whether an antioxidant substance found in broccoli could also help to reduce this risk. You know, nothing says healthy like a floret of broccoli.

Its important to remember that we all need some fat in our bodies. However, if your diet is high in energy (calories), you can risk storing up fat quicker than your body can build new blood vessels all cells in our bodies need a good blood supply to stay healthy, and that includes fat cells.

In a BHF-funded project at the University of Leeds, researchers discovered that fat is healthier if it has a good blood supply. So much so that people with a better blood supply to their fat could be more metabolically healthy and may be protected against heart and circulatory diseases. In fact, this might explain the fat but fit paradox, where some people who are overweight have an apparently healthy metabolism.

In this study, carried out in mice fed a high-fat diet, the researchers studied a receptor (called IGF1-R) which plays a role in the growth of new blood vessels. Here, they found that removing this receptor in the cells lining the inside of blood vessels promoted the growth of new blood vessels, which allowed beneficial changes to the fat cells. Interestingly, they also showed that poor blood supply to the fat can switch it to an unhealthy state. In the future, the hope is to use these insights and develop a drug that keeps fat cells healthy.

Until then, however, the best medicine for the new year and the new you is to eat healthily and stay active.Victoria Taylor, Senior Dietitian at the BHF, says that when it comes to weight loss, different approaches will work for different people. If you are looking to lose weight, the most important thing to consider is to find a method that you can stick to for the long term. Remember too, eating well is not just about the numbers on the scales a healthy balanced diet which is rich in fruit and vegetables, fish, low-fat dairy, pulses and wholegrains, is important whatever your weight and can help to improve a range of risk factors for heart and circulatory diseases.

What does a healthy diet look like?

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New year, new you: maintaining a healthy weight - British Heart Foundation

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