Cardiovascular Risks

Increasing prevalence of obesity attributes to cardiovascular diseases.

Cardiovascular risks

Globally, 17.9 million people die due to cardiovascular disease (CVD) every year. Among them, 85% of deaths are due to heart attacks and stroke1. According to the WHO’s prediction, by the year 2030, about 23.6 million people may die from CVD, especially due to heart attack and stroke2.

There are several factors that contribute to CVD, but the rising prevalence of obesity is known to be a major promoter of CVD. Increased body fat is associated with hypertension, dyslipidemia (high blood cholesterol), and diabetes, which directly or indirectly contribute to CVD.

  • Obesity- Does it only mean belly fat? +

    According to recent studies, more than 1.9 billion adults are overweight, and 650 million are obese. Being overweight or obese has contributed to 2.8 million deaths throughout the world. In India, about 135 million people have obesity, and the prevalence changes based on age, gender, and socio-economic status3.

    Obesity means carrying too much body fat. Having too much body fat is not the only concern. But, the region where the person carries extra fat matters a lot. Some people who are not obese but have a large waistline show a higher risk of developing CVD.

  • What is a cardiovascular disease? +

    CVD comprises of several medical conditions that affect the heart. The following are the common heart diseases:

    • Hypertension
    • Angina (chest pain)
    • Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
    • Congenital heart disease
    • Heart attack
    • Heart failure
  • Heart attack and Stroke-The major risks associated with obesity +

    A heart attack occurs due to sudden blockage of blood supply to the heart muscle. This happens when the blood vessel that supplies blood to the heart becomes weak and narrowed due to the formation of plaque (fat deposits). Eventually, the plaque breaks off and forms a clot that interrupts the blood flow to a part of the heart.

    A stroke occurs when the blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain is blocked or ruptured. This blockage or rupture prevents blood and oxygen supply to the brain tissue, which eventually leads to the death of brain cells.

  • How is obesity connected with CVD? +

    It is a well-known fact that obesity affects the heart-health, and here are the ways how it contributes to CVD:

    1. Alters cholesterol levels: Obese individuals have altered blood cholesterol levels, which plays an important role in heart diseases. These individuals have high levels of LDL (bad cholesterol), triglycerides (a type of fat), and low levels of HDL (good cholesterol). HDL is known to remove bad cholesterol from the body. But, when the HDL levels are reduced, the risk of buildup of LDL and triglycerides in the blood vessel is increased. This results in atherosclerosis (a condition caused due to accumulation of fats in the blood vessel), a major contributor of heart attack and stroke.
    2. Reduced oxygen supply: When compared with healthy individuals, obese people require more oxygen and nutrients to meet their body needs. To overcome these needs, the body requires more pressure to circulate the blood. Eventually, the high blood pressure damages and weakens the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart and results in atherosclerosis. Thus, it increases the risk of a heart attack.
    3. Release of inflammatory factors: Obesity results in the release of certain inflammatory mediators in the blood that contribute to the development of atherosclerosis and rupture of plaque. Additionally, it reduces the levels of adiponectin (a protein hormone), which exhibits beneficial effects of heart health.
  • How obesity contributes to stroke? +

    Obesity contributes to stroke by the following mechanisms:

    • Hypertension
    • Diabetes mellitus
    • Obstructive sleep apnea (a condition, wherein the person experience a series of pauses in breathing while sleeping)

    All these conditions contribute to excess fat, the release of inflammatory mediators, inadequate blood supply, and blockage. Additionally, they interfere with the body’s metabolism and over time, harm the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart and brain. When there is a rupture or blockage in the blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain, it results in a stroke

    Are there any complications?

    Stroke and heart attack are the life-threatening conditions that require immediate medical attention. A heart attack and stroke do not have any obvious symptoms. So, most of the time, these conditions are left undiagnosed and considered as less serious. If these conditions are left untreated, in the long-term it result in permanent damage to the heart and brain, which increases the risk of death.

  • How to minimize the risk of CVD and Stroke? +

    Follow these steps to minimize the risk of CVD and stroke:

    • Maintain a healthy body weight.
    • Burn calories by walking, running, or any form of physical activity.
    • Choose a diet rich in fibers.
    • Include fruits and vegetables in your daily diet.
    • Have a low salt and low-fat diet.
    • Quit alcohol and smoking.
    • Monitor the blood cholesterol levels regularly.
    • Meditate daily to manage stress.
    • Know about the warning signs and take immediate action.

    A healthy lifestyle is the best way to stay fit and active. Take charge of your health, watch your weight, and act fast to have a heart-healthy life.

    Reference

    1. https://www.who.int/health-topics/cardiovascular-diseases/

    2. https://www.who.int/cardiovascular_diseases/about_cvd/en/

    3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30641719

    4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2929614/

    5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5507106/

    6. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/weight-management/health-risks-overweight

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