Obesity and morbid obesity are medical conditions diagnosed according to a patient’s Body Mass Index (BMI). Excess weight creates stress throughout the body and leads not only to obesity, but also to the development of a series of associated diseases, also known as comorbidities, including diabetes, hypertension, respiratory conditions, metabolic disease, as well as cancer and heart disease. A patient with a BMI between 30 and 40 is diagnosed with obesity, while a BMI higher than 40 is consistent with a diagnosis of morbid obesity.
Development of Heart Disease and Obesity
Unlike other comorbidities, the correlation between heart disease and obesity has been recently established, and researchers currently believe that an increase in BMI directly raises the risk of heart disease, including congestive heart failure and heart attack. According to the study “Obesity and Heart Disease,” published in the official journal of the American Heart Association, reveals that overweight (BMI between 23 and 25) middle-aged women have a 50% increased risk of suffering nonfatal or fatal coronary heart disease, while for men between 40 and 65 years old and BMI between 25 and 29, the increased risk is 72%.
The development of heart disease in obese patients is related a common feature that occurs due to excess weight, which is left ventricular hypertrophy. Increased left ventricular volume and stress in the walls of the heart contribute for the hypertrophy, which can result in premature death. Hypertension, high blood pressure and alterations in the right heart are also factors that contribute for heart disease and are aggravated by obesity.
Obesity-Related Heart Disease Prevention
Reducing the probability of suffering from heart disease associated to obesity is closely related to preventing obesity itself and studies reveal that even a moderate weight loss can help reduce the risk. Therefore, heart disease prevention is particularly based on healthy diet, in particular avoiding highly fat food, and on the increase of physical activity. These behavioral alterations are expected to result in a decrease of blood pressure, the shrinking of the heart to a normal size, a better use of insulin by the body and a drop in cholesterol.
The study “Prevention of cardiovascular disease: Obesity, diabetes and the metabolic syndrome,” however, calls attention to the difficulties of losing weight by obese patients. The authors demonstrate that lifestyle modifications are efficacious, but remember that translating these results to the real world has been a difficult task. In order to address this problem, they propose a pansocietal uptake of interventions able to act in both psychosocial and socioeconomic underlying factors that contribute for obesity.
Heart Disease and Obesity Treatment
Similarly to prevention, the treatment of heart disease is inseparable from the treatment of obesity. There a series of medically supervised weight loss programs, from alterations in dietary and physical habits to pre-packed meals, pharmacotherapy and weight loss surgery, that can be used to make an impact on both heart disease and obesity. The most appropriate method for each case must be discussed by the patient and physician.
In addition to weight loss, sodium restriction may be helpful in the treatment of heart disease, since high intake of sodium increases fluid retention. The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association Heart Failure guidelines recommended a daily consumption of 3000 to 4000 mg of sodium, while for patients who are more likely to developing heart disease or who already suffer from it, the recommended intake is less than 2000 mg per day.