Take the Weight off Your Heart

Obesity and heart disease are closely interlinked. There are 3 typical heart diseases - coronary artery disease, heart failure and arrhythmia. It has now been conclusively established that obesity is a major cause of coronary artery disease and heart failure. There are several obesity links to heart disease and some unknown factors too, but the growing evidence suggests that none of them should be taken lightly.

The link between obesity and coronary heart disease:

* Obesity raises triglyceride and LDL cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) levels.
* Obesity lowers HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol) levels.
* Obesity raises blood pressure levels.
* Obesity can cause type 2 diabetes.

HDL cholesterol is good because it carries bad cholesterol back to the liver and removes its excess from arterial plaque. Obesity does not allow this to happen. And diabetes always adds to the complications.

Even without the other risk factors, obesity alone is a high enough risk for heart disease to happen.

Obesity and heart failure
Obesity is known to thicken the wall of the heart's left ventricle. This condition is called ventricular hypertrophy (LVH). The left ventricle is from where blood is pumped out of the heart to be circulated throughout the body. Persistent pressure on the left ventricle due to obesity can ultimately lead to heart failure. Obesity is also known to cause metabolic syndrome X that is associated with lipid abnormalities. Together with LVH, this syndrome could cause heart failure.

How fat is "fat"?
In general, high risk of heart disease constitutes:

* Waistline of 40 inches or more for men, and
* Waistline of 35 inches or more for women

A better scale, and a more correct one, is measuring the body mass index (BMI). BMI takes both height and weight into consideration, and gives a good measure of the body composition. Here is how you calculate it:

1.    Divide your weight in kilograms by height in meters, divide again by height in meters (kg/m2) OR
2.    Multiply your weight in pounds by 703, divide by height in inches, divide again by height in inches.

If your BMI falls between 25 and 30, you are "overweight".
If your BMI is 30 or greater, you are "obese".
If your BMI is 40 or greater, you are "extremely obese".

These definitions of obesity are according to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

What you can do to reduce risk
The risk of heart disease is significantly reduced if you can shed just 10% of your weight. Chances of other health problems associated with obesity are also minimized if you can do that. Obesity is a "known risk factor" for heart disease and it is a "modifiable one" - it is something you can control. In addition to regular exercise, you need to follow a special diet that takes care of your needs.
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