Is Weight an issue for Your Heart?
Weight and waistlines as predictors of heart disease
A 2005 study in the American Journal of Physiology stated that fat cells act like small chemical factories, releasing a host of hormones and other inflammatory materials that increase the risk of heart disease. Here is a list of predictors that suggest how excess fat and weight pose a threat to one’s heart:
- Excess weight signifies an above-normal level of cholesterol and triglycerides in the body, indicators of increased fat in the blood stream.
- Increased amount of fat in blood stream puts an individual at a greater risk of developing clots and blockages in arteries, blocking blood flow to the heart.
- Visceral fat, or fat that lies beneath a muscle, mostly around internal organs increases the risk of metabolic disorders, particularly in women. Studies show the direct relation between high visceral fat around the waist and numerous health conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, insulin resistance, all potential hazards that can lead to heart disease.
- Obesity and stroke: Obesity increases a person’s chances of having a stroke –
- Excess weight or physical inactivity lead to increased blood pressure, and an increased risk of a stroke.
- Obese individuals have a greater chance of suffering from sleep apnoea or sleep disordered breathing. Sleep apnoea is related to increased blood pressure, stroke and irregular heart rhythms.
- Obesity and metabolic disorder such as diabetes are closely linked. Diabetes puts an obese individual at a higher risk of having a stroke.
- Obesity in children increases the long-term risk for chronic disorders like stroke and other conditions like diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
- Obese individuals are also at a higher risk of ventricular hypertrophy, or enlargement of the left side of the heart. The condition results from increased blood pressure and a strain on the heart
How to know if an individual is at a higher risk of heart disorder?
Two measurements help determine if an individual’s current weight is linked to an increased risk of heart disease. These include:
- Body mass index (BMI)
- Waist circumference
Body mass index (BMI) – BMI is used as a standard indicator in determining if an adult individual is at a healthy weight or not. BMI is a mathematical formula that considers a person’s height and weight in determining obesity.
Body mass index (BMI) = Weight (kg)/Height (m)
BMI below 18.5 = Underweight
BMI 18.5 – 24.9 = Normal
BMI 25.0 – 29.9 = Overweight
BMI 30.0 and above = Obesity
Waist circumference – Waist circumference measures the waist of an individual, just above the belly button. It is a good predictor of abdominal fat, which is a risk factor of heart disease. Risk of heart disorders increases with a waist circumference that exceeds 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women.
Managing weight for a healthy heart
Even a small decrease in excess body weight goes a long way in decreasing the risk of heart disease. Weight loss towards optimal body weight reduces the BMI and brings it towards the normal range. Weight management is associated with reduced blood pressure, improved lipid or cholesterol profile, and a reduced risk of developing diabetes.
Individuals can manage their weight for a better heart through two ways:
- Physical activity – Thirty minutes of exercise, five times a week can keep the body’s fitness levels up and extra weight and the risks of heart disease at bay.
- Diet – Changing eating habits towards healthier nutritional choices can also help the heart, while keeping extra kilos off. A dietician can create a nutrition plan based on a person’s present weight and health status. One can take small steps like avoiding sweets, simple carbohydrates like white bread, rice and pasta, and saturated fats like cream and butter. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains like whole-wheat bread, whole cereals and brown rice is useful in maintaining a healthy weight and heart.