Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease

By: Laura DeAndrade, ANP-BC

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer in the United States and studies now show that elevated body mass index (BMI) in overweight and obese people isn’t simply linked to heart failure – it has been proven to cause it.

BMI is a simple measure of weight-for-height used to classify overweight and obesity in adults. The same for both sexes and for all ages of adults. The World Health Organization defines a normal BMI from 18 to 25. An overweight BMI greater than or equal to 25 and obesity is a BMI greater than or equal to 30. According to studies, for every point increase in BMI over 25, the incidence of heart failure goes up 17% in overweight people. This is an astonishing amount. High BMI can also cause the following conditions:

Angina – when the heart does not get enough blood, causing a feeling of pressure or squeezing in the chest, shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back. Also known as chest pains.

Arrhythmias –irregular heartbeats which can lead to death depending on their type.

Coronary artery disease –when the coronary arteries become hardened and narrowed by fatty material. Obvious symptoms are rare, so many people live with it for years before the first sign which is often a “sudden” heart attack.

Heart disease –including bleeding along artery walls, hardening of the arteries, and heart attacks.

Kidney damage or failure–due to damaged blood vessels, which can require a kidney transplant or dialysis.

Stroke– an interruption or blockage of blood to the brain.

Vision loss – caused by blocked blood vessels to the eye.

Working towards just a 5-10% reduction in BMI for people who are severely overweight or obese can significantly reduce risk factors for many health concerns such as diabetes and high blood pressure. In addition, obese people who decide to undergo surgery to speed weight loss may lower their risk of having and dying from a heart attack or stroke. Findings from a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association show that half of the participants who elected to undergo weight-loss surgery were 33% less likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those who did not have surgery and 53% less likely to die from one. We see people everyday in our office who either have early known heart disease or a strong family history of heart disease. Weight loss surgery will help lessen your risk of heart attack or stroke.

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