Being overweight or obese has become more prevalent than ever in the United States. Over 70% of adults age 20 years and older are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Data from the 2017–2018 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that obesity (having a Body Mass Index of 30.0 or higher) affected 42.4% of American adults.
Obesity raises the risk for a number of serious health conditions, many of which are related to heart health. Obesity-related heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes are among the primary causes of premature and preventable deaths.
The Obesity & Heart Disease Connection
Obesity can lead to increased blood pressure, changes in cholesterol and impaired glucose tolerance. It is linked to a number of factors that increase the risk for heart disease and stroke:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Type 2 diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome
These are some of the key risk factors for heart disease. Other lifestyle choices (including poor diet, excessive alcohol consumption and physical inactivity) also put people at greater risk for developing cardiovascular problems.
Are You At Risk?
Being overweight or obese is determined by using the Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference measurements.
Body Mass Index
BMI is a formula that determines an individual’s body mass based on height and weight. The result will fall within one of the following categories.
- Below 18.5: Underweight
- 5-24.9: Normal
- 25-29.9: Overweight
- 30 or higher: Obese
Not all people with a high BMI result are necessarily overweight. Muscle weighs more than fat, so individuals with high muscle mass may receive an above-normal result but not have an unhealthy amount of body fat.
There are many online calculators you can use to find out your BMI.
Abdominal fat is a risk factor for heart disease. The risk increases for men with a waist measurement more than 40 inches and over 35 inches for women. To measure your waist properly, place a measuring tape around your waist, right above your belly button. The tape should be snug but not tight. Take the measurement after you breathe out.
It is important to note that these tools are not intended to diagnose heart disease risk. If you are worried about your weight, it is important to make an appointment with your healthcare provider for an assessment.
Reducing Your Risk For Heart Disease
For those who are overweight or obese, even small decreases in body fat can lower high blood pressure and high cholesterol, reducing the risk for heart disease. Improving other lifestyle factors, such as diet and getting more exercise, can help further reduce individual risk.
While it is important to see your doctor for assessment and assistance with a diet and exercise plan, here are some of the ways you can start reducing your risk for cardiovascular disease right now:
- Eat a healthy diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole-grains and protein, and that minimizes saturated fats, sugars and salt.
- Get plenty of regular activity/exercise.
- Reduce weight, or maintain a healthy weight.
- Manage stress.
- Get enough sleep.
- Get regular checkups to determine if you have risk factors like high cholesterol or high blood pressure or to monitor known conditions.
The team at Advanced Cardiovascular Specialists consists of North Louisiana’s leading experts in cardiovascular care. To schedule an appointment, please call our office at (318) 798-9400.