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How Obesity Affects The Heart

April 12, 2020
Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen

If you’re obese, or even overweight, there is no shortage of health consequences that are taking their toll on your body. Noticeable changes in the body are common, such as being unable to walk up a flight of stairs without breathing difficulties. But obese people also suffer from many other health problems such as reduced memory span, decreased cognitive function, and of course, a shorter lifespan. But one of the main ways obesity affects one’s health is how it impacts the heart.

 

For starters, obesity changes your cholesterol levels. It lowers your HDL (good) cholesterol while spiking your LDL (bad) cholesterol. High cholesterol leads to deposits of fat in the arteries, preventing blood from flowing properly. If these fat deposits break, it can lead to heart attack or stroke.

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Exercise and Heart Disease

Exercise and Heart Disease

Obese people usually have high cholesterol simply due to their excess weight, but they may also suffer from obesity-related conditions such as diabetes which, when managed poorly, can further spike cholesterol levels. Some obese people also smoke, which damages the walls of the blood vessels, making them more susceptible to building up the fat deposits caused by high cholesterol.

 

Being obese also raises your blood pressure. High blood pressure increases your risk of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, or heart attack. Not only are you more likely to suffer cardiovascular risks from having high blood pressure, you may also experience further complications such as memory problems, dementia, aneurysm, or kidney or eye damage.

 

Furthermore, obese people have a much higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Many people with type 2 diabetes have trouble controlling their blood sugars. High blood sugar damages blood vessels in the body, including those around your heart. According to the National Institute of Health, in adults with diabetes the most common causes of death are heart attack and stroke. Adults with diabetes are also twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke than people without diabetes. 

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Morbid Obesity

Morbid Obesity

Finally, obesity can lead to developing metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is essentially a few different conditions under one name. The conditions include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat, and elevated cholesterol levels. Metabolic syndrome is usually caused by being obese, but if you’re overweight, you can also develop it. Having diabetes can also increase your risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

 

Fortunately, losing weight is not impossible. It won’t happen overnight, but if you make the necessary changes to your lifestyle, you can see the results in as little as a few weeks. Some tips for losing weight are: 

 

  • Start exercising
  • Cut out sugary drinks
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Eat smaller meals
  • Eat foods high in fiber

 

If you can manage to shed those excess pounds, you’ll look and feel like a new person. And you’ll greatly benefit your heart.

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