Question

Heart Disease

How does being overweight affect my heart?

A Answers (6)

  • AMichael Roizen, MD, Internal Medicine, answered
    You increase your risk of heart disease in two ways if you're seriously overweight (a body mass index of above 35-for example, being 5 feet 8 inches and 230 pounds) or if your waist size is 40 inches or greater for men and 35 inches or greater for women (measurement around the belly button). Of course, many people cheat on the latter criteria by measuring the size of their belt, which unfortunately has been hiding under a beer belly for a few years.

    The weight carries two important risks. First, you're much more likely to have or develop other risky conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, or lipid disorders such as high LDL cholesterol levels, sleep apnea, or arthritis, which will inhibit your desire to exercise.

    Second, if you carry your extra weight around your waist, you're at an even higher risk because the fat cells in abdominal fat secrete a hormone that directly increases inflammation in your blood vessels. The loss of even 10 percent of your body weight will significantly improve your overall and cardiovascular health and can make you nine years younger in RealAge.
  • ACharles I. Wilmer, Cardiology, answered on behalf of Piedmont Heart Institute

    Being overweight affects my heart in multiple ways including giving me higher blood pressure, a higher risk of diabetes, more inflammation occurring in my body, and less protection. Obese patients usually have lower activities levels, lower exercise capability and lower protective cholesterols such as HDL. Because the blood sugars are usually higher and the insulin levels are usually higher in overweight patients, even if they do not have diabetes, they tend to have a worse prognosis.

    The good news is by losing weight we can reduce our blood pressure, inflammation, and our risk for diabetes. Even if we have diabetes we can lower the risk associated with it by getting our weight down. The exciting news is that in some people who have diabetes and are overweight, the diabetes will go away once their ideal body weight is reached. This is a valuable goal for all of us.

  • Obesity is used to describe the health condition of anyone significantly above his or her ideal healthy weight. But don’t be discouraged by the term. It simply means you are 20% or more above your ideal weight. Between 60% and 70% of Americans are overweight or obese.

    If you have too much fat -- especially around your waist -- you're at higher risk for health problems, including high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Being obese:

    • raises blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. 
    • lowers HDL “good” cholesterol. (HDL cholesterol is linked with lower heart disease and stroke risk, so reducing it tends to raise the risk.)
    • raises blood pressure levels.
    • can induce diabetes. (In some people, diabetes makes these other risk factors much worse. The danger of heart attack is especially high for these people.)

    Even taking off a few pounds can help your heart, so every step in the right direction is a step toward healthier living.

  • The harder your heart has to work, the harder it may pump. If you are carrying extra weight, then your heart has to work harder to move you around. Hypertension or high blood pressure increases your risk of other cardiovascular diseases like heart disease, strokes, vision changes, and kidney damage. And if you carry your weight in your abdomen (meaning, waistlines above 35 inches for women and above 40 for men), you are at even greater risk for cardiovascular disease. Losing weight, especially abdominal fat, is the first step in lowering blood pressure and getting blood cholesterol levels under control.

  • APaula Greer, Midwifery Nursing, answered

    Being overweight increases your risks of Heart disease, Hypertension and Diabetes. Many of us focus on the scale and our weight but should also take a serious look at what our waist size is. Once our waists get above 32 inches as a female and 35 inches as a male we are already in the increased risk zone. Ask me how I know, because I experienced it for myself. Being to busy with patients and family to take care of myself I had let my waist size get to 45 inches. This made me hypertensive and pre-diabetic and at risk for a heart attack or a stroke. I couldn’t climb a flight of stairs without being seriously out of breath. Who can exercise when they can't breathe? Losing 20 inches off my waist took my blood sugars down to normal and my blood pressures and resting pulse to a healthy place. I can now run and play with my grandchildren and steps are a breeze. I get at least 10,000 a day.

    If you are overweight make a commitment to love your heart today. Start taking care of yourself. If you don’t no one else will. Make this your year of transformation. Join the Sharecare team and help us fight obesity. Make your new mantra nothing tastes as good as HEALTHY!

  • AImran Niazi, MD, Cardiac Electrophysiology, answered on behalf of Aurora Health Care

    Imagine a horse pulling a cart with a single passenger and no other load. If the horse is healthy, the cart will fly down the road. This is your heart when it is normal, and you are not overweight.

    Now imagine the same cart, except that the horse is weak and undernourished. The speed of the cart will be slower, and it will be harder for the horse to pull the cart. This is what happens when you have a weakened heart, but normal weight.

    Now imagine that same weakened horse, except that the cart has several hundred pounds of grain as well as the passenger. That is the situation when the heart is weak and the person is overweight.

    Being overweight imposes an extra burden on the heart, one that a normal heart can handle fairly well, but which becomes increasingly difficult when the heart is weakened.

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