Yo-Yo Dieting And Heart Attacks: Can Weight Loss Be Bad For You?

Yo-yo dieting and heart attacks have been linked in a recent study that was reported at last week’s American Heart Association conference in New Orleans.

According to CNN, the study revealed that older women who are not overweight but continue repeated quests for that perfect figure increase their risk for cardiac death by 66 percent, which is 3.5 times that of women who maintained a stable weight. Yo-yo dieting, which is characterized as a cycle of gaining and losing 10 pounds or more, may be associated with heart attacks.

The study, led by Dr. Somwail Rasla from Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, tracked 153,063 postmenopausal women with various body mass index ratings for more than 11 years. Over the study’s duration, 2,609 of these women fell victim to cardiac death, and these women were from the group of individuals who reported a normal body mass index, but engaged in yo-yo dieting. Those who did not engage in yo-yo dieting demonstrated no increased risk for heart attacks or cardiovascular disease over the course of the study.

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Millions of Americans struggle to whip their waistlines into shape. For women especially, the pressure to achieve society’s perceived notion of the perfect physique challenges even those who are not considered to be overweight by medical professionals. As women approach menopause, increases in weight and shifts in where that extra weight is carried can diminish their self-esteem, prompting frantic forays into fad diets. According to Dr. Rasla, women are more likely to engage in yo-yo dieting than men. Dr. Rasla also noted that the heart attack risks of yo-yo dieting do not just kick in when a woman’s biological clock strikes menopause.

“Normal-weight women who said ‘yes’ to weight cycling when they were younger had an increased risk of sudden cardiac death and increased risk of coronary heart disease, which can lead to heart attacks and other serious issues.”

The cycle of rising and falling numerical readings on the bathroom scale are not the only fluctuations that occur with yo-yo dieting. The link between yo-yo dieting and heart attacks may be attributed to the fact that in addition to body fat, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels also vary up and down with weight gain and weight loss, which can take a toll on the heart. Changes in potassium levels and other electrolytes that are essential for heart function can lead to fatal cardiac arrhythmias.

According to the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive, and Kidney Diseases, statistics show that two out of every three adults in the United States are either overweight or obese. Being overweight or obese increases your risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, stroke, osteoarthritis, certain cancers, and other conditions. If you remain overweight, you are at risk. If you lose the weight and then gain it back, you may demonstrate that yo-yo dieting and heart attacks are connected. A healthier body is far from out of reach, however.

One key to avoiding the effects of yo-yo dieting is to walk away from lofty weight loss promises. There is no magical diet, potion or pill that can achieve rapid weight loss and maintain your target weight for the long haul. If there were such an easy cure for being overweight, the world’s entire population would be svelte in no time. Most fad diets require unreasonable eating habits, such as eliminating an entire nutrient-rich food group or imposing extreme limitations on certain foods. These diets may help you to lose weight initially, but they are not sustainable for life, which leads to gaining the weight back until you turn to the next big thing in the fad diet world. This is yo-yo dieting, which may increase your risk of a heart attack.

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Attaining a healthy target weight that you can maintain is a matter of making lifestyle changes to learn new habits that you will be realistically able to live by for the remainder of your lifespan. WebMD provides a simple weight loss guideline to start with, emphasizing the consumption of several nutritionally balanced meals throughout your day, engagement in a physical fitness routine, hydration and food portion control. Losing one to two pounds a week is less taxing on your body, and these lifestyle habits will set you up for long-term success while keeping you out of the yo-yo dieting cycle that could lead you to a fatal heart attack.

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