Obesity and Heart Disease

What is Obesity?
Obesity is a chronic disease and global epidemic that is characterized by an excess of subcutaneous fat in proportion to lean body mass. Fat accumulates in the body when more calories are consumed than expended over a period of time. Body Mass Index (BMI), a number calculated using a height and weight formula, is an accurate indication of a healthy weight. Obesity is rising at an alarming rate: more than 30% of adults and 14% of children and adolescents in the United States are obese.

Obesity, Heart Disease, and High Risk Populations
Being overweight or obese forces the heart to work harder and is directly linked to high blood pressure, sleep apnea, high cholesterol, diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke, some cancers, and a reduced life expectancy. Fat accumulation in the midsection of the body is particularly dangerous. Obesity is prevalent in all age groups and in both genders; however, Mexican-American men and women, African-American women, and women of low socioeconomic status have the highest incidence of this disease.

Body Mass Index
What is your BMI? Use the Centers for Disease Control BMI calculator tool to find out. A Healthy BMI is 18.5-24.9. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is categorized as overweight, and a BMI of 30 or above is categorized as obese.

Losing Weight
The first step toward losing weight is to seek medical and nutritional advice on how to do it safely. Your physician and dietitian will help you develop an individualized exercise and nutrition plan. Fad diets, starvation, diet pills, laxatives, and diuretics have short-term effects and can be harmful to your body. Research shows that a weight loss goal of 1 to 2 pounds per week is more likely to be maintained long-term. The best way to lose weight is to combine a nutritious, reduced-calorie diet with regular exercise. Experts recommend at least 60 to 90 minutes of daily physical activity for those engaged in a weight loss or weight maintenance program. Exercise helps your body burn calories more efficiently while working out and at rest. Emphasize fruits, vegetables, grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean cuts of meat. In addition, be attentive to portion, sizes especially when dining out. Creating a food diary has been shown to produce excellent results, and online programs, such as My Food Diary, are available.


Resources

Centers for Disease Control www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/healthyweight/index.htm
American Heart Association www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4639
Minneapolis Heart Foundation http://www.mplsheartfoundation.org/education/education_riskfactors_obesity.asp
Medline Plus www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/obesity.html