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Research shows 'yo-yo' numbers not good for heart health

Why it's important to make adjustments over time

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We all know that "yo-yo" dieting doesn’t work well for our waistlines.

But according to one recent study, in addition to weight, when our health "numbers" -- such as blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels -- fluctuate, it can be dangerous for our hearts.

The study looked at data from 6,748,773 people for about five and a half years.

Researchers found that even if people did not have diabetes or heart disease, if they had fluctuating numbers, they were at a significantly higher risk for death, heart attack and stroke, especially if those numbers fluctuated across more than one category.

“What they showed was that if you have variability of multiple factors, including blood pressure, blood glucose, cholesterol and weight, that you have a higher risk of cardiovascular events,” said Dr. Luke Laffin, of Cleveland Clinic who did not take part in the study. 

 Laffin said that the study findings are pretty consistent with what experts know -- that it’s not ideal to have a lot of ups and downs -- like "yo-yo" dieting habits -- as it likely puts more strain on the heart.

Instead, he recommends that people pay attention to their numbers over time.

For instance, if you begin to notice that your blood pressure is getting slightly elevated, don’t try to make drastic changes all at once.

Laffin said healthy change is always a good idea, but if we focus on the basic fundamentals of a heart-healthy lifestyle, like eating healthy and getting regular exercise, we’ll be better off.

“What we want to do is start setting up habits that can be taken on for the next 30, 40, 50, 60 years,” he said. “And if we do that, we tend to see slow decreases in weight and blood pressure, and really, slow and steady wins the race more than anything else.” 

Complete result of the study can be found in Circulation.