Heart Disease

Heart Smart Living
Heart Smart Living

Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.

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Losing Weight With Your Smart Phone

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As a cardiologist, I worry about my obese patients’ weight, and I feel strongly that it is my responsibility to help them find ways to lose it safely and permanently. Obesity affects more than one third of Americans, and at least 60 percent of the patients in my practice. It hurts the heart directly, by increasing inflammation in the blood stream and raising cholesterol numbers. Even more dangerous are the indirect effects, since obesity raises the likelihood of diabetes and high blood pressure, two major heart disease risk factors. Obese people are also more likely to have joint troubles, leaving them unable to exercise, and frequently suffer from sleep apnea, which also contributes to heart disease.

There is really no magic to losing weight. You’ve got to eat less than you burn. The problem is that so many people underestimate the amount that they eat, often leaving them with the impression that it is metabolism, rather than caloric intake, which makes it so hard to lose the unwanted pounds.

I have always advised keeping a food diary, but many people find it far too tedious to write down and add up calories. That’s one reason I love the new apps for smart phones that allow users to input food and exercise, and to monitor their progress meal to meal. These apps also allow users to track specific types of carbs, proteins, and fats, and to monitor sodium content.

A new study published in this month’s Journal of the American Dietetic Association and written by Sushama Acharya and associates looked at weight loss in a group of nearly 200 obese people who were assigned to either a paper food diary or a personal digital assistant (PDA) program. The PDA program was similar to those available for today’s smart phones. While both groups successfully lost weight over six months, the group using the app were more likely to choose fruits, veggies, and healthy grains.

Likewise, a study from the University of Pittsburg School of Nursing, published in this February’s edition of the journal Obesity, found that obese test subjects using a PDA for weight loss fared better than those using a paper diary when it came to reducing saturated fat and overall calories. In this study, daily feedback messages for the PDA group seemed to make a difference, keeping the study subjects motivated and on track.

There is a wide variety of apps available for people wanting to track weight, calories, nutrients, and exercise. Most cost just a few dollars and take only a few minutes per day. Using one may be the smartest thing your phone can do for you.

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About the Author


MD, FACC

Dr. Samaan is an acclaimed cardiologist, writer, and heart health educator.

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