Remember when you were a kid and hefty Uncle Morty would always end every
Thanksgiving dinner by pushing himself from the table, opening his belt buckle,
and letting his growing belly roll him onto the Lazee-Boy? Remember how you
promised yourself you'd never end up like that -- no matter what?
Statistics show that more than a few of us have broken that promise.
According to the CDC, more than 60% of the population is either overweight or
obese. And experts say that's bad news for heart health nationwide.
I had no inkling I had heart disease until December 2005, when I had two minor episodes of mild angina (pain in the chest area). My primary care physician ran an electrocardiogram but saw nothing abnormal. I was an athletic, lean 53-year-old who ate nutritious foods. He decided I was just stressed and gave me the go-ahead to go to Nicaragua on vacation.
But while there, the angina went from mild to severe. The pain would come and go, but on three separate occasions the pain was the most massive...
But simply being overweight - without any other risk factor -- can cause
problems, says the American Heart Association.
The heavier you are -- period -- the higher your risk of heart disease, says
Helene Glassberg, MD, director of the Preventive Cardiology and Lipid Center at
Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia.
Moreover, excess weight often means higher-than-normal levels of both
cholesterol and triglycerides, indications of how much fat may be also floating
around in your blood.
"The higher your level of blood fats, the greater your risk of
developing a clot significant enough to block blood flow to your heart,"
Indeed, even seemingly healthy hearts are affected by weight. In a study
published in the journal Circulation, doctors found that lugging
around those extra pounds appears to subtly weaken your heart's ability to pump
blood -- one of the first steps leading to eventual heart failure.
But weight alone is not your only concern. If you have thin arms and legs
but a bulging tummy, you may be at equally high -- or even higher -- risk than
an overweight or obese person. Emerging research points to "central obesity"
(or a big waistline) as a key culprit in bringing on heart disease.
Your Waistline Is a Key Predictor of Heart Disease
While for many years doctors weren't exactly sure of the link between weight
and heart health, recent studies, including research published in the
American Journal of Physiology in 2005, indicate fat cells may act
like mini chemical factories, churning out a host of hormones and other
inflammatory substances that increase our risk of heart disease.
This, say experts, is particularly true if you carry your excess weight
around a chubby midsection or "spare tire."
What's the connection here? Doctors say that fat around the midsection acts
differently than fat on your thighs or on your bottom.
"We used to think that all adipose [fat] tissue was neutral -- but as it
turns out, it's an active organ that makes all kinds of substances that we now
know can cause, or at least stimulate the atherosclerotic process," says
James Underberg, MD, Director of the Bellevue Hospital Lipid Clinic, in New
In studies on more than 1,300 Finnish men published in the European Heart
Journal, doctors learned that an central obesity is, on its own, a potent
predictor of heart disease, with risks that go far beyond obesity alone.
National criteria propose that a 40-inch waist in men and 35-inch waist in
women predicted an increased risk for heart disease.