How Obesity Raises Heart Attack Risk

Heart Health News     Summer 2019
How Obesity Raises Heart Attack Risk - Large

Obesity and extra body weight play a major role in raising your risk for heart disease and many other illnesses. And extra pounds tend to magnify the effects of other risk factors, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

The good news is that obesity and overweight are controllable heart disease risk factors. And weight control can contribute greatly to improved heart health.

You and your health care provider can work together to develop a supervised weight loss plan to lower your risks and improve your heart health. An effective plan, based on your weight loss goal, combines eating a well-balanced diet, lowering calorie intake below your body’s needs, and maintaining a recommended level of physical activity.

If you’re overweight, every pound of weight you lose will help lower your risk for heart disease and improve your well-being.

Here’s why weight control is so important for heart health.

High Blood Pressure

Obesity or being overweight raises your chances of increased blood pressure, a major heart disease risk factor. Losing five to 10 pounds, however, may be enough for an overweight person to begin title=lowering blood pressure;info=Controlling High Blood Pressure, according to the American Heart Association.

Each extra pound increases your heart’s workload, requiring it to pump more blood to circulate through fat tissue — and with greater force. This increases damaging pressure on the artery walls, which can be compounded by a buildup of fat deposits and narrowing of the arteries (coronary heart disease).

Untreated, high blood pressure causes significant damage over time and can eventually lead to a heart attack.

Type 2 DiabetesHow Obesity Raises Heart Attack Risk - In Content

Obesity is the major cause of type 2 diabetes, which increases other heart disease risk factors and puts you at greater risk for heart attack. Diabetes is a leading cause of early death, coronary heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and blindness.

Coronary Heart Disease and Stroke

Your risk for coronary heart disease rises as your body mass index (BMI) increases. A BMI of 30 or higher indicates obesity. You can check your BMI. Narrowed arteries and reduced blood flow to the heart can cause chest pain or a heart attack. Narrowed arteries also pose the risk of blood clots, which can break lose and travel to the brain, causing a stroke.

Abnormal Levels of Blood Fats

Excess weight raises levels of blood fats — cholesterol and triglycerides — increasing the risk of coronary heart disease. Excess weight also reduces the level of “good” cholesterol (HDL), which lowers coronary heart disease and stroke risk. So, a lower HDL level adds to heart disease risk, particularly in combination with an elevated level of “bad” (LDL) cholesterol.

Each extra pound increases your heart’s workload, requiring it to pump more blood to circulate through fat tissue — and with greater force.

Metabolic Syndrome

This is a combination of heart disease risk factors that may occur separately but often occur together. When you have three or more of the following risk factors, or you're being treated with medicine for the condition, you will likely be diagnosed as having metabolic syndrome:

  • A large waistline: Extra fat in the waist area (“apple-shaped” figure) puts you at greater risk for coronary heart disease than if the weight is in the hips or other areas of the body. Stomach fat increases LDL “bad” cholesterol.
  • Elevated triglyceride level
  • Lower than normal HDL cholesterol level
  • High blood pressure
  • Higher than normal fasting blood sugar

Other Health Effects of Obesity

Controlling weight and obesity can reduce your risk for other health problems as well, including cancer, sleep apnea and joint conditions such as osteoarthritis. Joint problems brought on by excess weight also can impact heart health as they limit physical activity, which is an essential part of heart disease prevention.