When it comes to weight loss, by now we know that there are no shortcuts. Nutritious foods and exercise are essential, and fad diets are ineffective for long-term health. But even though some weight loss methods are certainly healthier and more effective than others, it’s disturbing that some of them are downright dangerous.
In fact, following some controversial weight-loss tactics could end up causing a heart attack.
Weight loss and heart health
You probably know this as true: That proper diet, exercise, and healthy weight loss are great for your heart. And it’s true that heart-healthy foods and cardiovascular exercise are the best ways to prevent heart disease. It’s when people cut corners that they put themselves at risk.
These five weight loss methods not only have high rates of failure, they put your heart health at serious risk.
The term “yo-yo dieting” refers to the cyclical loss and gain of weight, resembling the up and down motion of a yo-yo. But as it turns out, losing and gaining the same 20 pounds can damage your heart. If you’re already at risk for (or living with heart disease), yo-yo dieting can increase your risk of stroke, heart attack, and early death. Keeping the weight off suddenly seems like an easier option.
Over-the-counter diet pills
Despite past problems with OTC diet pills like Fen-Phen, the weight loss drug industry remains highly profitable and highly unregulated. While short-term weight loss often does occur with the use of OTC diet supplements, long-term side effects include all kinds of negative outcomes, including heart valve damage and heart attack risk.
If your long-term health is your goal, you’re better off skipping the diet pill aisle entirely.
Prescribed weight-loss pills
Unfortunately, you aren’t out of the woods just because your doctor prescribed you weight loss medication. People who are obese are already at a higher risk for heart disease, so the prescribed pills can help them get down to a healthy weight — and they often do. But any drug that speeds up your metabolism also speeds up your heart rate, and in people susceptible to arrhythmia, the stimulants could trigger an episode.
If your doctor does prescribe weight-loss drugs, take them exactly as directed and discontinue use if you feel dizzy or your heart racing.
Exercise is one of the most heart-healthy things you can do. But sometimes extreme athletes or dieters push themselves past their limits. Studies have shown that extreme exercise training and constantly competing in endurance events can put a permanent strain on the heart.
The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week for heart health. But if you haven’t exercised in awhile, work your way up to that and don’t push yourself too hard.
Whether you forget to drink water after your gym session or you’re taking “water weight loss” pills to look slimmer, it’s easy to get dehydrated when you’re dieting. But dehydration forces your heart to work harder and increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Drinking plenty of water keeps every organ, especially your heart, healthy. It also flushes out your system, making you look slim, so drink up.
Healthy, long-term weight loss is a process that can’t be rushed. While waiting to see results can be frustrating, you’ll have a much easier time maintaining your weight if you shed the extra pounds slowly. Plus, it’s much better for your heart.