The Effects Of Obesity On The Heart
Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women in the United States accounting for almost a quarter of all deaths in the US in 2008. Unlike many other diseases, cardiovascular disease is well known, highly predictable and often preventable with simple and straightforward lifestyle change.
The simple fact is that obesity and excess weight contributes to heart disease in a very significant way. Not only can excess weight, on its own, cause an increased risk of heart disease, but its comorbid conditions can too. Let’s explore:
High Blood Pressure or Hypertension
One of the most common effect of obesity is high blood pressure, which occurs when the blood pumping out of the heart pushes against the walls of the arteries with greater force than normal. This pressure causes the heart to work harder, which, in turn and over time, can enlarge and weaken it significantly – this is known as congestive heart failure. High blood pressure can also increase the risk of damage to your arteries and brain and can cause a stroke or aneurysm. While high blood pressure is treated with the use of statin drugs, these medications do not treat the underlying cause of the problem.
Type 2 Diabetes
Many obese patients also suffer from high blood glucose or type II diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is also known as adult onset diabetes since it is acquired, usually in adulthood. Over the course of time, as our intake of sugar is too high, the pancreas tries to regulate blood sugar by secreting more insulin. Eventually, however the pancreas cannot keep up and type 2 diabetes forms. Diabetes, in turn, can cause coronary heart disease, and stroke. Medications and insulin tablets and injections are used to control type 2 diabetes, however they can become less effective over time.
Coronary Heart Disease
By increasing the chances of dangerous plaques sticking to the walls of the coronary arteries, obesity drastically increases the risk of coronary heart disease. As these plaques build, less blood is transported back into the heart. The initial presentation of this condition can be angina, or chest pain, and if left untreated it can create a higher risk of heart attack. Lifestyle changes including weight loss are most effective at preventing Coronary Heart Disease, however angioplasty, stenting or even bypass surgery may be necessary if the disease has progressed too far.
A stroke occurs when blood clots reduce the amount of oxygen that is transported to the brain. As we gain weight and reach obesity levels, the buildup of plaque in our arteries can lead to blood clots. Strokes can occur with little or no notice, creating a high risk of permanent impairment or death.
Those suffering from excess weight or obesity are at a greater risk for high cholesterol and in particular high LDL or bad cholesterol and triglycerides. High cholesterol is a significant contributory factor to coronary heart disease and buildup of plaque in the arteries. While high cholesterol can be managed through medications, common pills do not treat the source of the issue.
Beyond a simple BMI calculation, you and your doctor should discuss your waistline, which is a leading indicator of heart disease in those suffering from excess weight and obesity. Excessive abdominal fat is an indicator of increased risk of heart related issues due to obesity. Women with a waist circumference of greater than 35 and men with a circumference of more than 40 inches are at a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
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