What is heart disease?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States; it accounts for 1 in 4 deaths. There are several types of heart conditions that fall under the category “heart disease”. The most common is coronary artery disease (CAD), which is when a blood vessel that carries blood to the heart becomes hard and narrow. CAD can cause a heart attack because the heart is not getting the blood supply it needs to properly function.
Other forms include heart failure, sudden cardiac death, angina (chest pain), or irregular heart rhythm. To be honest, anyone can be at risk for heart disease, including children. There are three key risk factors for developing the disease that include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. Other risk factors include diabetes, unhealthy diet, sedentary lifestyle, overweight, and obesity.
Overweight, obesity, and heart disease
So how does being overweight or obese increase your risk for heart disease? Unfortunately, people who are overweight or obese often have other health problems that makes their risk higher. As mentioned above, these health problems include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or high sugar; high sugar was discussed in a previous blog.
Obesity can change your cholesterol levels. Not only does obesity aid in increasing your bad cholesterol and triglycerides, it also contributes to having low good cholesterol. (pennmedicine.org) Good cholesterol is needed to help remove the bad cholesterol to improve the risk for disease.
Obesity can also cause your blood pressure to rise. ” Obese individuals require more blood to supply oxygen and nutrients to their bodies which causes an increase in blood pressure.” (pennmedicine.org) With this increase in blood in the vessels, the pressure increases in an effort to move the blood through the body. Over time, this increased pressure causes the vessels to wear out. Increased blood pressure can be compared to water in a garden hose. If the water pressure is too high for too long, the walls of the hose start to form holes and small leaks.
How to reduce your risks
Some risk factors for heart disease are out of your control. These risk factors include age, family history, and race. However, there are several risk factors that you can control. The risk factors you can control include the following.
- Increasing your physical activity.
- Stop smoking.
- Choosing nutrient dense foods.
- Getting control of uncontrolled diabetes.
- Getting control of your bad cholesterol and good cholesterol.
- Losing 5-10% of your body weight; aim for a BMI of less than 25.
- Decreasing alcohol use.
If you are overweight or obese, I highly recommend researching the signs and symptoms of heart disease. Shockingly, about half of Americans (47%) have at least 1 of the 3 key factors listed above. (cdc.gov) As with other preventable disease, a change in lifestyle is a proven method for decreasing your risk of developing heart disease. As we’re learning, diseases share risk factors. Therefore making changes to help prevent one will also help you prevent others. Seeking medical help and being proactive about your risk factors can decrease your chance of developing heart disease. In health – Jennifer