Over one-third of all American adults are obese. That is 78.6 million adults in the U.S. who have more than 30% body fat. We all know that being overweight isn’t good for us, but to what extent?
Do we really know what obesity and heart disease are? Or that they are linked? Scientists are finding more evidence that the correlation between obesity and heart disease is closer than they originally thought.
Definition of obesity
Obesity is a condition of being grossly overweight and having too much fat. It can be attributed to environmental and/or genetic causes. Below is a map that lays out what environmental factors have on each state:
The results may be shocking to some but to others it may not come as a surprise. Southern states, known for their rich food and large portions have higher obesity rates than the rest of the U.S. Meanwhile, places like California, that have a reputation for following diet trends and looks, have lower obesity rates.
As for genetics, not all who are predisposed to obesity will become obese. It is only easier for them to gain weight and hold onto it.
Obesity is defined by having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or greater. BMI is a tool used to calculate fat percentage. Online tools are simple to use, but only give a rough estimate of your BMI. Your doctor will give you the most accurate BMI number.
What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease is when there is plaque buildup within the blood vessels, which narrows the vessel passages for blood to flow through. Problems such as clots that lead to strokes or heart attacks can arise and even lead to death.
Approximately 1 in 4 people will die each year of heart disease and it is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States. The most common type of heart disease is Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), killing over 370,000 people each year. Plaque builds up on the artery walls from cholesterol. High risk factors for CAD are unhealthy eating habits, infrequent physical activity, and being overweight.
How are Obesity and Heart Disease Linked?
Obesity and Heart Disease are linked because the more intra-abdominal fat (belly fat) a person has, the harder it is for insulin to work properly and process glucose. Abdominal fat also slows down your metabolism, causing food to turn into energy slower and is stored as fat instead of burning it.
Over time, the decreased metabolism and inability of insulin to function can cause diabetes and high blood pressure–both of which are common gateways to heart disease.
Obesity and high blood pressure are closely correlated. A woman who gains 55 pounds will be three times more likely to develop high blood pressure than a woman who did not gain as much weight.
Conversely, weight loss can lower blood pressure considerably. High blood pressure can lead to issues such as diabetes, CAD, and other life endangering diseases. Because of these medical issues that spawn from obesity, obese people pay $1,429 more annually than a normal weight person.
Is it Possible to Have One and Not the Other?
It is definitely possible to be obese and not have heart disease, and visa versa. Someone may be obese but never have it crossover to diabetes or severe heart problems. Genetics can also play a part in both arenas.
For example, a perfectly healthy person can suddenly fall victim to a heart attack and attribute it largely to genetics.
Regardless of health and genetics (even if the play positively in your favor), it is important to do all you can to keep your body and heart healthy.
How Can I Fix It?
Unfortunately, once you have heart disease, it is irreversible, but you can take steps to prevent heart disease and overcome obesity.
PREVENTING HEART DISEASE:
Less sodium intake and weight loss improve heart function and oxygenation to the heart.
Gastrointestinal surgery (if obesity is severe enough) can greatly reduce probability of cardiovascular mortality. This procedure is the most immediate solution for weight loss in an obese person. Insulin levels will regulate and blood pressure will most likely drop.
Take appropriate medications as prescribed and needed (to lower cholesterol, maintain healthy blood pressure, etc.). Medications for these issues can be life saving when taken as directed. Sometimes our bodies need assistance for it to function properly.
Exercise at least 30 minutes a day, whether it be walking, biking, swimming, etc. Exercise is proven to help manage weight and keep your heart strong. Your heart is a muscle too! It needs proper workouts to maintain its strength. Plus, your metabolism will speed up as you build muscle and lose fat. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so the more muscle you gain, the better metabolism you will achieve.
Consume less calories. Talk to a physician about a tailored diet plan. Too few calories can be just as dangerous and too many. High caloric diets and no exercise are leading factors in obesity. Implementing portion control can reduce weight dramatically for obese people.
Lower intake of sugar, fatty, and cholesterol filled foods. While these foods may taste better, they are typically not as healthy for your body since they lack necessary nutrients but are calorie packed. However, there are good fats that come from foods such as avocado, fish, and nuts.
Avocados do not have sodium, cholesterol, or trans fats. Replacing avocados for food high in those departments can improve your heart health and weight.
Fish have Omega 3s which have been found to normalize and reduce cholesterol levels. Omega 3s are great for your heart as well. A study showed that men who ate fish once or more a week were 50% less likely to die from a heart attack than those that ate fish less than once a month.
Supplements like daily vitamins and mix-in powders like L-Arginine to maintain weight and lower blood pressure are great additions to any diet.
By eating well and exercising, you can easily avoid complications such as obesity and heart disease. It is not guaranteed that heart disease will not occur, but even if you are predisposed to it, the likelihood of getting heart disease will decrease with better attempts to prevent it.
Educate yourself as much as you can on the topic, as well as other health issues. The more you know, the more capable you are of being and staying healthy!
Make sure you keep up on doctor visits. By monitoring blood pressure, cholesterol levels, BMI, etc. regularly, you can be more aware and advised in how to best manage your health.