Survey Finds Americans Struggle With Weight Loss for Heart Health

It’s become entirely normal to weigh more than we should—sometimes much more. In fact, more than one-third of children and adults in the United States are overweight or obese.

Many of us know that those extra pounds are not good for our health. Yet, we ignore the connection between increased weight and heart attack, stroke, cancer, and other leading causes of death and disability.

But why? Is it magical thinking? Is it because we don’t have the discipline we need to lose weight or keep it off? Maybe we don’t understand how we came to be overweight or we feel defeated by the thought of trying to lose weight. Or, maybe we simply have misconceptions about how to stay fit.

Well, it turns out the reasons we are overweight include all of the above.

Doctor assisting male patient on weighing scales in hospital
Tetra Images / Getty Images

Not Making Healthy Changes

A recent Cleveland Clinic survey—aimed at discerning what Americans know about the connection between weight and heart disease—discovered that a lack of discipline and misinformation conspire to create the problem. Overall, it’s easier just to ignore the issue.

More specifically, Americans have trouble shedding pounds to stay healthier because:

  • While 74% of people are concerned about their weight and 65% are worried about getting heart disease due to extra pounds, only 43% have actually tried to make dietary changes to lose weight.
  • Nearly 20% of people say they don’t want to change their diet to lose weight and 40% of those who describe themselves as overweight or obese say they aren’t careful about the foods they eat.

Uncertainty Is the Enemy

Most Americans (88%) understand the connection between a healthy heart and maintaining a healthy weight. Yet their knowledge of the role of obesity in heart disease, as well as other serious diseases, is limited.

Two-thirds of Americans correctly believe that obesity strains the heart by making it pump harder, but 45% falsely believe that fat on the hips and thighs are as dangerous as belly fat.

Sixty percent of Americans are unaware that fat tissue releases inflammatory substances that harm the heart and 70% don’t know that obesity leads to structural changes in the heart.

And while many are also aware that obesity is connected to high blood pressure (59%) and type 2 diabetes (55%), equally as many do not know that fat increases the risk of coronary artery disease, heart failure, and stroke. The vast majority (87%) are unaware that obesity puts them at risk for many forms of cancer too.

Diet and Exercise Issues

The body tries to hold on to excess fat, which makes losing weight difficult. That’s why a long-term plan is necessary for losing weight and keeping it off, and why quick weight-loss schemes are unlikely to work.

Part of the problem may be that Americans aren’t sure what a heart-healthy diet includes, or even if food matters.

In addition, 84% of Americans say they have tried at least one weight-loss method. And about one-third (30%) say they stuck with it for one week to one month, with 13% quitting in less than one week's time.

And more than half (53%) have tried to exercise more to lose weight, but have not stuck with the routine for very long. One-quarter of Americans also say that their dislike of exercise is their main barrier to losing weight; many younger people (22%) say that it's due to a lack of time.

Sixty percent of women and 46% of men blame their metabolism for preventing them from losing weight...they may be correct.

Giving Up

With so many barriers, it’s no surprise that many Americans think the goal of losing weight is unattainable. Nearly one-fifth say that their failure to see immediate results is discouraging and prevents them from trying harder.

For this reason, giving up on their weight loss goals is another common cause of overweight Americans not achieving a healthier weight.

Taking Action

You don’t have to set unrealistic goals or "strive to be skinny" in order to reap the benefits of weight loss. Losing only 5% of your weight is enough to improve your health. This puts a healthy heart easily within your reach.

If you are overweight, it may be best to start by telling your healthcare provider that you want to lose weight. A frank discussion about your health coupled with the help of a good dietitian can be quite motivating.

You can even receive an individualized weight-loss plan that incorporates your favorite foods, establishes an appropriate exercise program, and sets attainable and measurable goals.

A Word From Verywell

Don’t be the average American; be the exception. Take responsibility for your weight and your heart health.

If you are overweight, once you have lost 5% of those pounds, you’ll feel better, be healthier, and have a renewed sense of optimism that you are taking the right steps toward a healthier future.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cleveland Clinic. Newsroom. Americans concerned about their weight, but don’t understand link to heart conditions and overall health.

  2. Cleveland Clinic. Q&A: the truth about that beer belly.

  3. Magkos F, Fraterrigo G, Yoshino J, et al. Effects of moderate and subsequent progressive weight loss on metabolic function and adipose tissue biology in humans with obesityCell Metabol. 2016;23(4):591-601. doi:10.1016/j.cmet.2016.02.005