Spot your heart risk with this one easy step

You can't get a heart scan any old time you feel like it.

But you CAN get a glimpse of the health of your heart easily enough -- and it's with something that's probably sitting in the bathroom right now.

It's your scale.

Some folks step on it every morning. Others are afraid to even look it.

If you're in that second group, it's time to set aside the fear... dust off the scale... and check your weight.

New research shows how even SMALL changes in your weight over time can lead to BIG increases in your risk of serious heart problems.

Gaining even a few pounds could even increase your risk of heart failure!

The key is 5 percent.

A 5 percent jump in your weight -- 7.5 pounds if you're 150 pounds or 10 pounds if you're at the 200 mark -- can cause your heart to grow thicker walls on the left side.

Thicker walls might be better for your home -- especially if you have noisy neighbors -- but it's not so good for your heart. The thicker the walls, especially on the left side, the higher your chance of heart failure.

In the new study, the folks who had those thicker walls also had a drop in the ability to pump blood, which is another key marker of heart failure risk.

The reason is just basic biology. When you gain weight, your heart has to work harder to pump blood. Like any other muscle in your body, the muscles that power your heart will get thicker when they work harder.

Over time, that strain can take a toll. Your muscles keep working harder, but eventually they just can't keep up. Your heart stops pumping blood as effectively, setting the stage for eventual heart failure.

And, as the new study shows, this entire process can start with a gain of just 5 percent of your body weight!

OK, that's the scary part.

But you know me. I don't like to focus on fear. I'm all about what you can do right now to change your circumstances -- and the study shows that, too.

Just as gaining weight can thicken the walls, losing it can make them thinner and healthier.

So, do two things.

  1. First, weigh yourself regularly. You don't have to obsess over it and step on the scale every morning, but at the very least check a couple times a week.
  2. And second, if you notice it's starting to tick upward, make some tweaks to your dinner plate to bring it back down.

After all, it's a heck of lot easier to lose a few pounds now, when you first spot weight gain, than a few dozen later when you've let yourself go too long.