Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States? Every year, 1 in 4 deaths is caused by this serious yet very common disease.
Heart health is also strongly linked to weight. Having a higher weight (with excess fat) and weight-related complications can increase your risk for heart disease as well as other conditions such as high blood pressure.
That’s why the Your Weight Matters Campaign recognizes American Heart Month – an annual awareness initiative that encourages us to take care of this vital organ. So, while this “romantic” season may make you think of all things related to love and Valentine’s Day, don’t forget to pay attention to your physical heart, too. That means thinking about the behaviors that are in your control which also affect your weight and health.
Weight and Heart Health Have a Close Relationship
Excess weight is one of many risk factors for heart disease. It can impact how well the heart does its job as well as its structure, and it can also affect the inner lining of your blood vessels. Risk factors related to excess weight that commonly contribute to heart disease include:
- High blood pressure and cholesterol
- Sleep apnea
- High blood sugar
If you are struggling with overweight or obesity, or you know someone who is struggling, are you aware of the potential weight-related health conditions? Many of those conditions are also risk factors that could impact heart health. It’s important to take these risk factors seriously and talk about them with a healthcare provider.
Common Symptoms of Heart Disease
The World Health Organization defines heart disease as having disorders of the heart and blood vessels. Symptoms can include:
- Heart Failure. The walls of your heart thicken and your heart struggles to pump blood and oxygen.
- Atrial Fibrillation. This is when the chambers of your heart don’t communicate well and sync-up while pumping.
- Coronary Heart Disease. This happens when your arteries become hardened, narrowed and blocked.
- Venous Thromboembolism. This happens when blood clots form in the legs and the legs start to swell up.
- Stroke. This happens when blood vessels are blocked, making it harder or impossible to carry oxygen and nutrients to the brain.
Fortunately, even moderate weight-loss of just 5-10 percent can improve or prevent weight-related risk factors for heart disease. Though weight-loss isn’t always easy, your first approach should be to make healthy adjustments to your lifestyle as they relate to diet and exercise.
If you are still struggling with weight management, a healthcare provider can talk with you about other potential options. This may include medicine, programs or other treatment recommendations.
Beyond diet and exercise, there are other lifestyle changes you can make to benefit your weight and your heart. We’ll discuss more of them later during American Heart Month, but for now, check out these resources from the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC)-Founder of the Your Weight Matters Campaign.