Weight and Heart Disease

A Closer Look at Weight and Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading killer of both men and women; 54% of all deaths result from heart disease. Being overweight or obese or having too much abdominal fat are strongly associated with heart disease risk factors including an increase in total and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. Overweight, obesity, and abdominal fat increase the risk of diabetes, which is a heart disease risk factor.

Being overweight also directly affects risk of heart disease – if your BMI is in the overweight range, your heart disease risk doubles compared to people with BMIs in the healthy weight range. If your BMI is in the obese category, your heart disease risk quadruples. Losing weight reduces the risk of heart disease.

A Closer Look at Weight and High Blood Pressure

If we could eliminate overweight and obesity in our country, we could eliminate between 40% and 70% of the medical diagnoses of high blood pressure. Societies where people don’t gain much weight as they get older do not experience this increase in high blood pressure. The first thing a doctor tells an overweight or obese patient who has high blood pressure is to lose weight. Often this is enough to get his or her blood pressure under control even without any blood pressure medication.

A Closer Look at Weight and Other Cardiovascular Problems

Increased weight is associated with increased risk of congestive heart failure, a frequent complication of obesity and a major cause of death. Obesity changes the heart size and structure, preventing it from working properly.

Obesity also dramatically increases the risk of ischemic stroke, which is like a heart attack that happens in the brain. Compared to a woman with a BMI in the healthy range, a woman with a BMI greater than 27 has a 75% higher risk of ischemic stroke, and a woman with a BMI greater than 32 has a 137% higher risk. Losing weight helps reduce the risk of both of these problems.