Even being slightly overweight can seriously increase the risk of heart problems, Reuters reports. A 20-year study of roughly 20,000 male doctors in the US found that every 7 pounds of excess body weight upped the risk of heart failure by 11%. The fatal condition, in which the heart can’t pump enough blood throughout the body, plays a part in 300,000 US deaths each year.
However, researchers also found that even a modest amount of exercise can go a long way toward improving heart health. "Even if somebody said they exercised one to three times per month—which is a very low level of exercise—they had an 18% reduction in the risk of heart failure after accounting for all other established risk factors," said one of the researchers.