How does being overweight affect my heart?

If you have a lot of excess weight from body fat, you're more likely to develop heart disease. This is true even if you have no other risk factors. Excess body fat hurts your heart in the following ways:
  • Puts extra strain on your heart muscle
  • Raises blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels and lowers high-density lipoproteins (HDL)
  • Increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Raises blood pressure
Your heart is a muscle. It needs regular exercise to stay strong. Being overweight puts a strain on your heart and makes it hard for you to be more active. Staying active reduces the chance of future heart disease and stroke. It also can help you manage stress and lose weight.
Paula Greer
Midwifery Nursing

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!

Imran K. Niazi, MD
Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology

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.

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.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
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.
YOU: The Owner's Manual, Updated and Expanded Edition: An Insider's Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.