It’s well-known that the heart is vital to bodily functions, from pumping blood to the rest of the body to maintaining blood pressure. However, millions of Americans are at risk due to the high prevalence of heart conditions.

Heart disease is said to be the leading cause of death in the United States, and about half (47%) of Americans have at least one of the risk factors for heart disease. Aside from age, genetics, and family history, these risk factors include obesity.

Since obesity involves excess body fat, it is crucial to establish a connection between body weight and heart health. This is especially important since obesity rates have been rising in recent years and can increase the cases of heart conditions in turn.

Let’s examine how weight impacts heart health & lifestyle changes to improve both.

What’s the link between excess weight and heart health?

One of the most straightforward ways that weight gain can harm the heart is through increased cholesterol levels, specifically low-density lipoprotein (LDL).

High LDL levels can narrow and harden the arteries, leading to poor blood circulation. Excess weight can also substantially decrease high-density lipoprotein (HDL), sometimes referred to as “good” cholesterol, which helps remove and flush out LDL from the arteries.

Excess weight can also contribute to a spike in blood pressure, as individuals with obesity require more blood to supply oxygen and nutrients to their bodies. In fact, blood pressure increases alongside body weight, making weight gain between early adulthood and mid-life a strong predictor of hypertension in later life.

Moreover, being ahigher-weight person in itself can be linked to heart injury, regardless of blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The extra pounds force the heart to work harder, particularly during the relaxation phase of the cardiac cycle.

Where the excess weight is distributed can also play a role in increasing the risk of developing heart disease. A 2021 study from the American Heart Association notes that independent of body mass index (BMI), body composition can also indicate poor cardiovascular outcomes. This means that even among those with a healthy BMI, an increase in waist circumference and abdominal adiposity can affect blood vessel function.

Lastly, excess belly fat increases inflammation and triglyceride levels, both of which are damaging to the heart as they thicken the artery walls and pose the risk of stroke and heart attack.

Lifestyle tips to improve your weight and heart health

Getting to a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do for your heart. However, it is essential to determine first whether the weight gain is classified as overweight vs obesity since the effects on heart health can vary widely between the two weight ranges.

While a BMI above the healthy range of 18.5-24.9 is already strongly associated with heart disease and heart failure, the risks get higher and more amplified as BMI and body fat increase with the disease of obesity.

Knowing the severity of risk factors can then help you adjust the following lifestyle tips based on your current weight and health status.

Limit saturated fats in your diet

Foods That Lower Blood Pressure

Eating too much-saturated fat harms both your weight and your heart, as this concentrated fat raises your LDL levels and overall calorie intake. Thus, cardiologists recommend replacing saturated fat with heart-healthy foods rich in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

These include olive oil and flax oil as healthier alternatives for butter, margarine, and palm oil. Milk and dairy products also tend to be high in saturated fatty acids, so it’s best to swap them out for plant-based milk like almond, soy, and cashew instead.

Additionally, you can further reduce your fat intake by opting for low-fat cooking methods like baking, roasting, stewing, and steaming instead of deep-frying your food all the time.

Do Aerobic Exercises

Diet alone can’t benefit your heart and overall health unless you complement it with aerobics. Aerobic exercises are not only doable at home with little to no equipment, but they also boost heart function by improving blood circulation, regulating heart rate, and lowering overall blood pressure.

You can use exercises such as push-ups, squats, lunges, and planks to create time circuits that provide variation and ensure you get consistent results for health and wellness. Whichever heart-pumping workouts you end up combining, you also get to burn calories and strengthen your muscles—thereby helping you shed excess fat and maintain muscle mass.

In summary, the connection between overweight/obesity and heart disease can be explained by how excess weight increases bad cholesterol levels and puts the heart under stress.

Where excess weight is situated can also cause concern for cardiovascular outcomes, urging overweight individuals to not just lose weight in general but to also work toward reducing belly fat. Fortunately, diet and exercise can work together to tackle weight management and heart health at once.

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