Your Weight and Your Heart Health

Being overweight can affect more than your appearance. Having a higher than recommended weight increases your likelihood of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes — all key risk factors for life-threatening cardiovascular disease.

For adults between the ages of 40 and 59, being overweight or obese can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by up to 85% compared to those who are of normal weight. It also puts you at risk for developing these conditions earlier and dying younger. 

Your outlook for heart health may be grim if you remain overweight. However, you can modify your risk. Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight can help improve your heart health along with your odds of living a longer, healthier life. 

Board-certified cardiologist Erick E. Calderon, MD, FACC, FSCAI, of Lakewood Cardiovascular Consultants in Bradenton, Florida, provides state-of-the-art cardiology care for patients at risk for cardiovascular disease. Dr. Calderon and the staff provide electrocardiograms, nuclear stress tests, and other diagnostic assessments to evaluate and monitor and your risk for cardiovascular disease.

Dr. Calderon may recommend weight loss, lifestyle modifications, and other techniques that can improve heart health. Read on to find out why it’s important to watch your weight if you want to enjoy the benefits of a healthy heart.

How weight affects your heart

When you carry more than an average amount of weight, it affects the structure of your heart and the way it performs. These changes make you more susceptible to cardiovascular diseases. 

Your heart has to work harder because there’s more blood to pump through a broader network of blood vessels in a larger body. To accommodate the extra work, your heart can grow thicker and become bigger.

The added stress can cause it to work harder and less efficiently. More blood also exerts more pressure on the artery walls, causing high blood pressure, the most common risk factor for heart disease.

Obesity can also increase your bad cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and decrease good cholesterol, or high-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL works to pick up cholesterol and bring it to your liver for disposal. With too much LDL and not enough HDL, cholesterol can attach to the walls of your arteries and clog them, preventing blood from reaching your heart, brain, or other organs and leading to heart attack, stroke, or heart failure. 

Being obese also increases your risk of developing diabetes. At least 68% of diabetics over age 65 have heart disease. Having diabetes increases your risk for heart disease two to four times that of an average-weight person, making diabetes one of the top modifiable factors for preventing heart disease. 

Why a healthy weight matters

Maintaining a healthy weight makes your heart work more efficiently. When your weight is in a normal, healthy range, your heart doesn’t have to overwork to circulate blood. Being an average weight reduces your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and many other life-threatening conditions, including some cancers and sleep apnea. 

Being obese is just one major risk factor for heart disease. Other risk factors include age, a family history of heart disease, stress or depression, alcohol, unhealthy diet and nutrition, and smoking.

If you have one of these additional risk factors and you’re obese, your risk multiplies. However, the good news is that lifestyle changes can prevent between 80% and 90% of heart disease

Ways you can make a difference

Even if you’ve carried extra body weight for years, you can turn things around without making drastic changes. You can see measurable improvements in your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels by losing between 5% and10% of your body weight

Find out if you’re at a healthy weight by calculating your body mass index (BMI), a measurement of body fat based on your height and weight. An average BMI measures between 18.5 and 24.9. A BMI between 25 and 29.9 indicates overweight, while a BMI of 30 or more classifies obesity. Whether you’re considered obese or not, carrying extra weight around your middle also increases your risk for heart disease.

If you’re within the overweight or obese category, Dr. Calderon recommends the safest options for healthy, long-term weight loss. Start with a heart-healthy diet containing foods low in sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and refined sugars. Concentrate on vitamins, fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and antioxidants. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day most days to help you reach a healthy weight faster.

Find out more about the ways your weight can affect heart health. Schedule an appointment online, or call our office for a consultation. 

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