Being overweight can result in an increased risk of heart disease. In order to know if you are overweight, you can check your body mass index (BMI).
This can be done using a BMI calculator on the internet or by calculating it yourself. You can do this by taking your weight in pounds and dividing it by your height in inches squared. Then multiply that number by 703 to get your body mass index.
A body mass index of between 18 and 25 is considered normal. A body mass index of 25 to 30 means you are overweight, and a body mass index of above 30 means you are obese.
If you are overweight or obese, you need to do what you can to get your BMI values into the normal range. This includes making better choices by eating foods that are more alkaline, removing saturated and trans fats from your diet, eating unsaturated fats, cutting out those foods that cause inflammation, and other choices that support your goals.
You do not have to lose a lot of weight in order to lessen your risk of heart attacks and strokes. A weight loss of just five to ten percent will greatly lessen your risk of the various types of heart disease, including stroke, heart attacks, or peripheral vascular disease.
According to the organization that takes measurements of our health (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—or the CDC), about 66% of adults in the US are considered to be overweight, while as many as 1/3 of us are to be considered obese.
If you fall into either of these categories, you should begin to make healthy modifications to your diet so you will not become one of the statistics at risk for heart disease.
The Role of Exercise
Another healthy lifestyle modification you can make is to increase your level of exercise.
You can do this by brisk walking, cycling, swimming, or any other activity you enjoy that raises your heart rate and respiratory rate. This is called aerobic exercise and should be done about thirty minutes a day three to four times per week.
On the other days of the week, you could do anaerobic exercise, which means lifting weights or using a specialized weight machine. You could even use water jugs or canned food as weights! Anaerobic exercise can increase your muscle mass, which makes it easier to lose weight because your basal metabolic rate will be higher allowing you to burn more fat even when at rest.
Between aerobic exercise and anaerobic exercise, you would be exercising thirty minutes a day every day of the week. It is just thirty minutes and will not take up too much time for the benefit it gives you.
How Does the Heart Respond to Weight Loss?
If you lose just ten percent of your body weight (which is twenty pounds for those who weigh 200 pounds already), your heart will respond accordingly, and these things will happen:
Your blood vessels will be more elastic. The blood vessels will be less narrow and will be more elastic when you exercise. This reduces the workload on your heart and will take the stress away so your heart can function more effectively. There will be less fat in your arteries, which collects on the lining of blood vessels, forming plaques that narrow the arteries and increasing the chances that a blood clot will close off the arteries, causing strokes, peripheral vascular disease, and heart attacks.
Your blood pressure will be lower. There is a direct connection between your weight and blood pressure. The lower your weight, the lower the risk of developing hypertension, which can lead to heart disease. Exercise also lowers blood pressure, which is another reason to include exercise as part of your weight loss program. You might also be able to reduce medications for hypertension if you can successfully lose some weight, but it is extremely important to make sure you speak with your physician before changing your dosage.
Your blood lipids will be lower. The amount of lipids in your blood will be lower when you lose weight. Losing weight can decrease your triglyceride level, can raise your HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol), and can lower your LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol). All of these changes will improve your heart health.
Blood clots will diminish. If you lose weight, it is less likely that you will develop blood clots, which means that your chances of having a blood clot close off an artery will decrease, and the chance that a blood clot in your leg could break off, resulting in it travelling to your lungs, brain, and heart will also decrease.
Your belly fat will go down. The amount of fat you retain around your belly greatly increases the risk of heart disease. A study from the journal, Cardiology, showed that belly fat could contribute to heart disease, even in people who are otherwise of a normal weight. Weight loss around the belly can reduce your risk of developing this complication.