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Weight and Heart Health – How Are They Connected?

burger and fries and overweight belly

Obesity in Canada continues to be a big problem – According to the Government of Canada Health Canada Blog, although adult obesity in Canada has been relatively steady since 2004, the percentage of adults who are obese today is twice as high as it was in 1978-1979, from 13.8 per cent to 28. 2 per cent. According to data from the Canadian Community Health Survey, 26.7 per cent of Canadians were obese in 2015, up from 23.1 per cent in 2004. The survey measured obesity as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher.

What’s considered obese?

In order to find out if you’re obese, you must first measure your Body Mass Index (BMI). belly and measuring tapeTo calculate this number, divide your weight in kilograms by your height in metres, squared. In Canada, adults 18 and over with a BMI of 30 kilograms/metre or higher is considered obese. A BMI between 25 and 30 kilograms/metre, however, is considered overweight. Being overweight is typically the start of obesity, and those who are overweight and do not make better lifestyle choices will also likely develop health issues. Check out these great infographics that help explain obesity and shows obesity averages across Canada.

Note: BMI is not foolproof. People with more muscle will have a higher BMI. Other factors skew this as well.

Lifestyle Factors That Contribute to Obesity

It’s true that in some cases, obesity is hereditary. But in many other cases, obesity is due to making poor lifestyle choices. The amount of processed, unhealthy foods available contribute, without a doubt, to our country’s obesity problem. Why fuss with cooking meals when you can buy a full meal deal at a fast-food chain? Many Canadians eat low-nutrition meals every single day and for every single meal. And despite what the Canada Food Guide recommends, Canadians find it hard to break bad habits.

Are Weight and Heart Health Connected?

Obesity and being overweight absolutely increase a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease. As well, obesity and being overweight contributes to hypertension and an enlarged left ventricle, which increases the risk for heart failure. To determine if you are at risk of heart disease, you must first determine your BMI and waist circumference. If your BMI is in the ‘dangerous’ range, seek medical advice on how to safely lose weight and adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Some of the risks associated with obesity include (taken from Stanford Health Care article):

  • High blood pressure – Additional fat tissue in the body needs oxygen and nutrients in order to live, which requires the blood vessels to circulate more blood to the fat tissue. This increases the workload of the heart because it must pump more blood through additional blood vessels. More circulating blood also means more pressure on the artery walls. Higher pressure on the artery walls increases the blood pressure. In addition, extra weight can raise the heart rate and reduce the body’s ability to transport blood through the vessels.
  • Heart disease – Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is present 10 times more often in obese people compared to those who are not obese. Coronary artery disease is also more prevalent because fatty deposits build up in arteries that supply the heart. Narrowed arteries and reduced blood flow to the heart can cause chest pain (angina) or a heart attack. Blood clots can also form in narrowed arteries and cause a stroke.
  • Type-2 diabetes – Obesity is the major cause of type 2 diabetes. This type of diabetes usually begins in adulthood but, is now actually occurring in children. Obesity can cause resistance to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. When obesity causes insulin resistance, the blood sugar becomes elevated. Even moderate obesity dramatically increases the risk of diabetes.
  • Metabolic Syndrome – The National Cholesterol Education Program has identified metabolic syndrome as a complex risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Metabolic syndrome consists of six major components: abdominal obesity, elevated blood cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, insulin resistance with or without glucose intolerance, elevation of certain blood components that indicate inflammation, and elevation of certain clotting factors in the blood.
  • Sleep apnea – Sleep apnea, which causes people to stop breathing for brief periods, interrupts sleep throughout the night and causes sleepiness during the day. It also causes heavy snoring. Respiratory problems associated with obesity occur when added weight of the chest wall squeezes the lungs and causes restricted breathing. Sleep apnea is also associated with high blood pressure.

Making Positive Lifestyle Choices

fresh fruitLosing weight and eating better boils down to making positive lifestyle changes. This includes:

  • eating healthier;
  • adding exercise into your daily routine;
  • adopting a different mind-set;
  • working with a registered dietician;
  • joining weight loss groups.

Many people have literally started from scratch and thrown out all the unhealth foods from their cupboards and pantries. From there, you can replace all the bad stuff with some good stuff! Refer to Canada’s Food Guide for reference and guidelines on how to eat better and begin losing weight. Your heart with thank you!

For more ideas, read our blog 14 Foods to Add to Your Heart Healthy Grocery List