January 23, 2023 – If you put on a few pounds during the holidays on top of weight gained during the pandemic lockdown, you’re not alone.

According to the Florida Department of Health, 64% of Florida adults are now obese or overweight. By 2030, that figure is expected to balloon to 70% with consequences far more serious than coping with tight-fitting clothing.

“Obesity is known to influence most major cardiovascular disease risk factors,” says Dr. Allan Stewart, the cardiovascular surgery medical director of HCA Florida Healthcare’s Miami-Dade County hospitals.  “We’re certainly seeing that play out today with heart disease patients who are heavier, sicker and with worse health markers across the board.”

HCA Florida Healthcare cardiac surgery teams are projected to perform more than 100,000 procedures this year, while the health system’s 24/7 Consult-A-Nurse® line is expected to handle thousands of calls related to cardiovascular-related symptoms in 2023. Last year, the free, medical advice line fielded close to 4,000 calls from individuals with chest pain, high blood pressure and other symptoms.

“The pandemic interrupted exercise routines, kept us more sedentary and created stressful eating and drinking habits, all of which lead to weight gain,” Stewart adds.

As for losing weight and reducing the risk of heart disease, Stewart says the most important thing to remember is to set realistic, trackable goals. Individuals should focus on modest weight loss goals over shorter periods of time rather than aiming for a bigger weight loss total over a longer period of time.

“It’s easier to think about losing three pounds in a month rather than 36 pounds in a year,” he adds.

Additionally, HCA Florida Healthcare dieticians recommend the following weight-loss guidelines:

  • Eat Healthier: Focus on vegetables and leafy greens, fruits, lean protein such as skinless chicken breast or salmon and whole grains. Also stay away from sugar-laden sodas, sports drinks and energy drinks.
  • Get Off the Couch: Just 30 minutes of daily physical activity, combined with calorie reduction, can help with weight loss. Short walks and stretching throughout the day can make a big difference.
  • Get Your Sleep: Studies show a good night’s sleep helps prevent increases in calorie intake that occur when someone is sleep deprived.
  • Manage Stress: Stress generates elevated levels of the hormone cortisol known to lead to an increased appetite. Even an occasional stressor such as an argument with a friend or loved one can lead to stress and overeating.

Stewart adds certain new medicines used for type 2 diabetes have been approved for weight loss, in combination with diet and exercise.

As always, individuals should consult with their primary care physician when considering any weight loss program.

HCA Florida Healthcare’s statewide Consult-A-Nurse® phone number is (844) 70-NURSE (6-8773). Available 24/7, callers will speak with nurses ready to provide quick, convenient expert advice and support. Callers, including those recently discharged from the hospital, can ask questions or speak with a nurse about any symptoms or illnesses they or someone in their family may be experiencing. From burns, rashes, sprains, GI concerns and migraines to neurology and heart conditions, nurses can address a wide range of adult and pediatric issues.

About HCA Florida Healthcare

HCA Florida Healthcare, a part of HCA Healthcare, is a family of more than 570 affiliated sites of care, including hospitals, physician practices and freestanding emergency rooms. United as a statewide network in 2021, HCA Florida Healthcare includes approximately 11,000 experienced doctors and 77,000 colleagues working together to deliver advanced, collaborative care to more than 7.4 million patients each year. HCA Florida Healthcare is committed to improving more lives in more ways and giving back to the communities it serves. The network provided nearly $836.6 million in uncompensated care and invested significantly in innovative technologies and facilities across Florida, including the new $360 million state-of-the-art, multi-specialty HCA Florida University Hospital in Davie, Fla. A strong advocate for the next generation of healthcare professionals, HCA Florida Healthcare is also a major supporter of university-based healthcare programs and residencies and fellowships throughout the Sunshine State. For more information, please visit HCAFloridaHealthcare.com.