As recently as 2016, nearly 40% of American adults were affected by obesity. Three years later, cardiovascular disease (heart disease) was the leading cause of death in America. This may all sound morbid, but understanding the relationship between obesity and your heart could save your life — or the lives of people you care about.
The experts at Phoenix Heart discuss how obesity and heart health are related, as well as what you can do to decrease your risk of heart disease.
The relationship between heart disease and obesity
One of the most prevalent health problems in America, obesity has been linked to several other potentially fatal diseases. It’s no secret that heart disease is included in that list. Adults between the ages of 40 and 59 who are overweight or obese have a much higher risk (up to 85% higher) of developing heart disease than adults of the same age who are at a healthy weight.
Additionally, people who are overweight (BMI 25 to 29.9) or obese (BMI 30 or greater), are more likely to develop heart disease at a younger age.
Knowing that obesity and heart disease are definitely related — the next question is how?
The relationship between these two conditions is complex and resembles a harmful ripple effect from obesity (the start of the ripple) and heart disease (the end of the ripple). Obesity increases your likelihood of developing several cardiovascular disease risk factors, including:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- High triglycerides (blood fats)
- High cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome
What’s more, obesity encourages sedentary behavior, which further increases your risk for all of these conditions.
Are you at risk?
To tell whether you’re at risk for obesity, doctors use two measurements: BMI and waist circumference. Your BMI is your weight-to-height ratio, and your waist circumference simply refers to how many inches your waist is around.
The BMI scale is as follows:
- Underweight: below 18.5
- Normal: 18.5 - 24.9
- Overweight: 25.0 - 29.9
- Obese: 30.0 or greater
- Morbidly obese: 40.0 or greater (35.0 or greater if experiencing obesity-related health problems)
A high-risk waist circumference is more than 40 inches for men and more than 35 inches for women.
Taking the first steps toward weight loss
Losing just a tiny bit of weight — as little as 5% of your body weight — can significantly decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Find a healthy eating pattern you actually enjoy
If you want to lose weight for good, it’s critical that you lose any dieting mindset: Diets don’t work. Search the web for healthy eating patterns that aren’t restrictive and allow you to still enjoy the foods you love.
For example, the Mediterranean eating plan emphasizes whole grains, some lean protein, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables (and red wine!), so you can choose from among plenty of meal options.
Engage in exercise you enjoy
Just like with an eating plan, you’ll never stick to an exercise regimen you hate. Experiment with different forms of exercise to find movements you love. You can start super simple — just get outside and walk.
Get professional help if you need it
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, know that you aren’t alone. The physicians at Phoenix Heart have dedicated their careers to helping patients improve their health, and they’re here for you.
To learn more about obesity and heart disease, or to consult one of our heart health experts, call one of Phoenix Heart’s six locations today or request an appointment online.