Obesity and Your Heart

February is Heart Health Month! Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of women? Per the American Heart Association, heart disease kills 1 in 3 women each year. These statistics may be eye-opening and nerve-wracking but here’s the thing—Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that at least 200,000 of heart disease deaths are preventable. Additionally, 80 percent of heart disease is preventable. So how can you make sure you’re doing everything you can to prevent heart disease?

It’s important to be aware of all the risk factors associated with heart disease. According to World Heart Federation, the main risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Tobacco use
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Lack of physical activity

You may notice that many of the risk factors have the potential to cause another risk factor. It’s important to note that obesity has the potential to cause various heart disease risk factors to develop. That may seem like terrible news but on the plus side, if you work on lowering your weight (if your doctor advises you to), then you can also potentially reduce other heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure and high cholesterol! I know, it’s easier said than done, but below are some helpful tips.

How do obesity and heart disease overlap?

Obesity is defined as excess body fat. If the accumulation of body fat is around your waist, you’re at higher risk of certain health problems. Mayo Clinic reports that older women may have a higher risk of accumulating body fat around their waist due to hormonal changes they experience as they age. Obesity can increase blood pressure, decrease “good” HDL cholesterol, increase “bad” LDL cholesterol, and lead to diabetes. A healthy weight improves the circulation of blood in your body and helps manage healthy fluid levels.

Do you know if you have a healthy weight?

Your doctor can calculate your body mass index (BMI), which can help determine if you fall into the underweight, normal weight, overweight or obese range. It’s important to note that BMI is not always the most accurate way to determine the amount of fat in your body, which is why it is advised to consult with your doctor.

What can you do?

Make sure you’re following a healthy lifestyle! You might need to make some adjustments to your typical routine to incorporate healthy food and physical activity. It’s best to limit consumption of processed foods and instead eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats and proteins. Reducing your sodium and sugar levels decrease your risk of high blood pressure and diabetes. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to weight gain and can also raise your blood pressure, so be sure to limit your alcohol consumption. The American Heart Association recommends you get 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise. Your cardiovascular risk significantly decreases the more in shape you are—no matter your body composition. Some ideas for moderate intensity level exercise include going for a brisk walk or bike ride. Even putting on music while doing dishes or cleaning the house can help to get you moving around and your blood flowing! Struggling to motivate yourself to exercise? American Heart Association has five tips to help you learn how to love exercise. It’s important to try to find an exercise that you like so that you will continue to do it.

Take action today to live a heart healthy life! Follow these steps: See your doctor to review your risk factors; make positive lifestyle changes to lower those risks; and be sure to spread the word about heart health with your family and friends! It’s important to prioritize your heart health and remember that most of the heart disease risk factors are preventable.

Resources:

How to prevent heart disease: https://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/How-to-Help-Prevent-Heart-Disease—At-Any-Age_UCM_442925_Article.jsp

Obesity information: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/WeightManagement/Obesity/Obesity-Information_UCM_307908_Article.jsp#.WJNR0dIrJ9M

Healthy living guidelines: https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/healthy_living.htm