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Obesity a "True Epidemic of Our Times"

We know obesity is a risk factor for heart disease, which is the number one cause of death in the United States.

A new study says obesity alone can increase the risk for fatal heart attacks in men by 60 percent.

On "The Early Show," Dr. Travis Stork, host of the show, "The Doctors" shared some tips on how to shed pounds and tune up your ticker at the same time.

As an emergency room doctor at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, Stork sees firsthand what obesity can do to someone, especially when it comes to their heart.

"Being an E.R. doctor drives a lot of my passion when it comes to the things we talk about on 'The Doctors,'" he tells co-anchor Erica Hill.

"Obesity, people don't realize, is a true epidemic of our times. Obesity in it of itself - even if you don't have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, is a major risk factor when it comes to heart disease, the number one killer of both men and women. We need to get the message out, because there are so many simple things people can do to reverse the trend."

So what can people do to loose weight and improve their heart health?


According to Stork, this isn't as much about weight as it is a major silent killer, which is high blood pressure in our society.

"Sodium is a major problem," he says. "We're eating way too much."

"The Doctors" started a campaign on called, "Halt the Salt," in which they advocate limiting salt intake to 1,500 milligrams a day or less of sodium.

Stork adds that "you have to look at labels, because 80 percent of the salt we get in our diet is not from what we make at home, it's from the packaged foods that we get at the store. We need to focus on that."

Stork also suggests buying low sodium versions and using a pinch of salt. "Don't use the salt shaker at home. It can make a huge difference in your heart health over the long-term, because a third of us are walking around with high blood pressure and we don't know it," he says.


What does that do for you?

"If your viewers could do one thing starting today, a glass of ice water, you may eat 20 percent fewer calories during that meal. Plus it teaches you to not always grab that soda. Or sugar water during your meal. So you also cut calories in that way. And you stay hydrated, to boot," he points out.


When it comes to snacking, it's really important that you snack on something that's healthy.

"Unsalted or low salt, getting back to sodium, but it can replace one of your unhealthy snacks during the day," he says. "Heart healthy fats. Good proteins. This is a snack I always talk about on 'The Doctors' as my go-to."


According to Stork, you don't have to go to the gym to be fit, you just have to get on your feet more.

"We have what we call sitting disease in this country: We're always sitting, you're watching TV. So simple things. When you're at the mall, go ahead and take the stairs, not the escalator. Get on your feet when you're making phone calls. Park in that space further from the supermarket so you can walk into the store and get some extra exercise.

"Even while you're waiting, whether it's for an airplane or anything else, just get on your feet, he adds. "If you do this, you will burn extra calories, up to 300, 400 more a day."


According to Stork, the American Heart Association recommends two servings of fish a week. "Obviously, you can't always get that -- that's why your doctor who will recommend you take a fish oil supplement, because it really does or can improve heart health," he says. "So talk to your doctor."