Understand the relationship between obesity and the heart
Obesity and the cardiovascular system: understanding how weight loss can help lower the risk of heart attack and stroke
Obesity is an incredibly complex and chronic disease that presents
a significant challenge to those living with it.
Due to its complex nature many people find weight management a challenge and see their weight fluctuate or yo-yo' throughout their life.
Weight gain can happen for a variety of reasons and will vary by person, but common factors can include genetics, significant life events, certain medications, and lifestyle changes.
If you have recently tried and failed to lose weight it may seem hard to find the motivation to begin this process again. While it may seem difficult to achieve at first, maintaining behaviour changes over the long term, is vital, as even limited weight loss can have a significant and long- lasting impact on the heart.
The purpose of this article is therefore to address the different stages of weight loss and how they can have a direct impact on heart health.
Adults with a BMI over 27.5 or 30 kg/m2 (depending on ethnicity) are classified as living with obesity and this is associated with increased cardiovascular risk, and higher chances of a stroke or heart condition.
If you would like to read more about the link between obesity and heart disease, please click here to view our previous feature 'Does obesity cause heart disease and how can you reduce your risk?'.
If you are worried about the impact of your weight on your cardiovascular health, it is vital you speak to a healthcare professional who can work with you to find the most effective and sustainable approach personalised for you.
There is not one diet or exercise programme that works for everyone, and speaking to a doctor or healthcare professional specialised in obesity care significantly improve the likelihood of successful weight loss.
When you lose 1-5% of your body weight you can expect to see benefits to your cardiovascular health. This level of weight loss has been shown after one year to have a significant impact on the heart and is linked with reduced blood pressure and cholesterol.
For those living with obesity, using weight management medication like pharmacotherapy, or undergoing surgery can increase weight loss to over 10% of your bodyweight, and in some cases up to 40% with bariatric surgery.
If you do manage to lose over 10% of your body weight, there are even larger health benefits. A 10-year study conducted in 2004, found that those living with overweight or obesity who lost 10% of their body weight in the first year, saw a 21% decrease in the chances of a heart attack or a stroke, a reduction that was not seen in those that lost less than this amount. This weight loss also has benefits to cholesterol levels and blood pressure levels mentioned earlier.
While losing any amount of weight is a fantastic achievement, sustaining weight loss is also a vital step to a healthier heart.
Studies have shown that up to 80% of people who have lost a significant amount of weight gain almost all of this back within 2 to 5 years. This can be due to lifestyle changes, but also the body metabolism slowing down following any form of diet and entering 'fasting mode'.
To help keep the weight off long term it is vital to continue to seek support from healthcare professionals who will be able to advise you on how best to keep the weight off and provide a support network.
While it may seem a difficult task at first there are many resources and forms of support to help you lose weight and the benefits to your heart make the fight to control the disease of obesity potentially lifesaving and one worth winning.
Talk to your weight management provider about treatment options that could prevent the weight you lose from coming back.