How Does Obesity Impact The Heart?

  • September 27, 2021
Obesity and heart disease

So how do you know if you are obese? There are two critical parameters used to determine if your weight is linked to increased risk of heart disease. These are: body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference. BMI is calculated from a person’s height and weight and a count above 30 usually confirms obesity. Similarly, risk of heart disease is higher in men with a waist circumference (measured just above the navel) of more than 40 inches and among women, above 35 inches.

Obesity is associated with a clutch of risk factors for cardiovascular disease including: High blood cholesterol, particularly triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome (a group of heart disease risk factors increasing chances of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes). Obese and overweight people often have an enlarged left ventricle (left ventricular hypertrophy), thus running the risk of heart failure.

Heart disorders linked to obesity

A bunch of heart problems are related to obesity:

  • CAD or coronary artery disease: Obesity is a serious risk factor for coronary artery disease, caused by buildup of cholesterol plaque in the arteries of the heart. Those who are overweight around the abdomen run a greater risk of CAD, which hampers blood flow to the heart.
  • Heart failure: Obesity is also linked to heart failure even if there’s no evidence of CAD. It is understood that obese individuals might have larger volumes of blood in their systems, forcing the heart to pump harder, which can lead to heart failure. The other link is sleep apnea, which causes pauses in breathing during sleep and a spike in blood pressure that can trigger a heart failure.
  • Atrial fibrillation: Research shows that obesity is also a risk factor for atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm often seen in heart failure.
  • Sudden cardiac death: Obese individuals are also said to run a higher risk of sudden cardiac death, even those without any CAD, heart failure, or other heart issues.
  • Hidden inflammation: Obesity can trigger inflammatory processes that damage your cardiovascular system, leading to structural/functional changes in the heart.

Mitigating steps:

The mantra is: Watch your weight, lower the risk of heart disease. Remember, even if you don’t have diabetes or hypertension, those extra kilograms could be harming your heart silently.  

  • Start a regimen to lose or control your weight. Exercise regularly and eat healthy. It will reduce chances of heart failure down the road.
  • Know your risk factors for heart disease. Get your critical parameters like BMI, blood pressure, blood sugar and lipids evaluated regularly.
  • Watch out for signs of heart failure if you are obese. You might feel unexplained fatigue, breathlessness and an irregular heartbeat.
  • Remember that every kilo shed helps. Research reveals that for every 5-point increase in BMI, risk of heart failure rises by 32 per cent.

Sometimes, all these lifestyle modifications may not be enough to lose weight. For such individuals, the doctor might advise bariatric surgery.

At Medica our Heart care unit with comprehensive facilities provides multi-disciplinary treatment and care for obesity related heart problems.

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