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Causes of Heart Disease: Obesity

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, more than two out of three American adults are overweight or obese. A person is generally considered to be overweight if their body mass index (BMI) is 25.0 to 29.9 and obese if their BMI is 30.0 or higher. 

Obesity is one of the causes of heart disease. It also increases the risk for a number of health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, joint problems, gallbladder disease, stroke and some cancers.

Why Is Obesity One of the Causes of Heart Disease?

Recent studies have shown that people who are obese have a 104 percent increase in the risk of developing heart disease compared to those who are not overweight. Overweight or obese individuals are more likely to develop high blood pressure, elevated levels of triglycerides and LDL (or bad) cholesterol, and low levels of HDL (or good) cholesterol. The excess body fat, especially in the abdominal area, also may contribute to inflammation in blood vessels that could increase heart disease risk.

Because obese people have more body fat, they have more body mass. The higher mass means more blood is flowing through the body – and the heart. This increased flow makes the heart work harder, resulting in more strain. 

Obese people also have more fatty molecules, such as cholesterol, in their blood. These fats can narrow blood vessels, making it harder for the heart to push blood throughout the body. Ultimately, obesity often leads to heart failure since the heart is overworked by having to pump more blood through constricted vessels.

Obesity Facts and Figures

Obesity affects not only adults, but also children. The American Heart Association reports that nearly 23.9 million American children between the ages of 2 and 19 are considered overweight. This does not bode well for their future since overweight adolescents have a significantly higher chance of becoming obese adults.

The causes of obesity in United States are directly linked to increased food consumption and a sedentary lifestyle. From 1970 to 2003, the amount of calories consumed per day jumped from 2,234 to 2,757.

Losing weight isn’t easy, but even a small weight loss of just 5 to 10 percent of current weight can help lower the risk of heart disease and other serious medical conditions. Successful, sustained weight loss of about half a pound to two pounds a week occurs over an extended period of time. It requires getting regular exercise and eating a balanced diet that is lower in calories and saturated fat. 

For more information about obesity and heart disease, talk with your doctor.

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