How Weight Affects Heart Disease

March 21, 2017

How Weight Affects Heart Disease

Heart disease is primarily caused by atherosclerosis, or thickening and hardening of the arteries. If an artery narrows too much, you can feel chest pain. A heart attack occurs if an artery closes all the way or narrows so much that a blood clot blocks the blood flow.

Some risk factors for heart disease, such as advancing age, gender and heredity, can't be controlled. But, says the American Heart Association, you can control other factors, including:

  • High cholesterol. Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the body's cells. Two ways to lower your cholesterol are to exercise regularly and eat a diet low in saturated fat.

  • High blood pressure. Your heart must work harder when your blood pressure is high. When this occurs for an extended time, the heart can enlarge and arteries can become scarred and hardened. You can treat high blood pressure with medication and changes in your diet and lifestyle.

  • Cigarette smoking. Smoking has been identified as the single most important modifiable risk factor for heart disease. Smoking promotes heart disease by quickening the development of atherosclerosis and reduces your HDL (good) cholesterol.

  • Physical inactivity. Lack of exercise is a major risk factor for heart disease because inactivity contributes to higher cholesterol and obesity.

  • Obesity. Your risk of heart disease increases if you're more than 30 percent overweight. Obesity raises cholesterol, blood pressure, and can lead to diabetes, another risk factor for heart disease. You can reduce your risk for heart disease by losing as few as 10 pounds if you are overweight.

  • Alcohol. Having one or two alcoholic beverages daily may reduce your risk of heart disease. Drinking more than one drink a day if you are a woman, or a man over the age of 65, or two drinks a day if you are a man younger than 65, can raise blood pressure, triglyceride levels and cause other health problems.

Preventing heart disease

You can reduce your risk of heart disease and a heart attack by seeing your doctor for regular checkups to evaluate your risk factors. If you have risk factors, you and your doctor can work together to control them.

The AHA recommends regular screening for your risk of heart disease beginning at age 20. Screening includes measuring blood pressure, body mass index, waist circumference and pulse every two years, and getting a cholesterol profile and glucose testing every five years.

Your doctor may want you to have more frequent screenings or visits if you have a family history of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or other health problems.

Signs of a heart attack

If you or someone you're with is having a heart attack, call 911 or your emergency medical help number. Give the person an aspirin,if they are not allergic, while waiting for emergency help to arrive.

The signs of a heart attack include:

  • Pain, pressure or a squeezing in the middle of the chest that lasts for more than 15 minutes

  • Pain that spreads from the chest to the shoulders, neck, jaw or arms

  • Dizziness or faint feeling

  • Nausea

  • Difficulty breathing.


March 21, 2017


Vitality magazine

Reviewed By:  

Louise AkinLouise Akin RN BSN,Ratini, Melinda DO, MS