It’s well known that obesity is linked to an increased risk of developing heart disease, so it would seem logical to assume that maintaining a healthy weight would minimize or negate this risk. Surprisingly though, looking fit and keeping your weight within a normal range doesn’t always equal a healthy heart, here’s why:
- Poor diet
Some people are able to live on a diet based around unhealthy, fatty or sugary foods and never put on any weight. However, they may be doing invisible damage to their bodies, which can go undetected without testing, or due to lack of obvious symptoms.
High cholesterol, which can be triggered by consuming too many saturated or trans fats, isn’t something that can be measured by stepping on the scales or looking in the mirror. You can still be a healthy weight and develop high cholesterol or high triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood), both of which can raise the risk of developing heart disease. A family history of high cholesterol could also increase your chance of inheriting heart-related health issues.
- Blood pressure
As with cholesterol, only testing will reveal if you are suffering from high blood pressure, or hypertension as it is also known. Many doctors often refer to hypertension as the “silent killer”, as symptoms can be subtle, and you may not even notice them until the condition is more advanced.
A number of factors can cause high blood pressure including smoking, stress and your family history. A high salt intake can also trigger high blood pressure as Dr. Khalid Al Muti, staff physician in Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi’s Heart & Vascular Institute mentions, “The average dietary salt intake in the Middle East region is several folds higher than levels that are considered healthy."
- Visceral fat
This is the fat that’s situated in your abdominal cavity and around your liver, kidneys and stomach. You also store fat around your other organs, but again this isn’t visible from the outside. Having too much visceral fat can cause various health problems, including raising your blood pressure which in turn can increase the risk of developing heart disease or experiencing a heart attack.
- Inactive lifestyle
Being inactive or leading a sedentary lifestyle without exercise, as well as smoking, can negatively impact heart health. Smoking can damage the lining of the arteries helping fatty deposits to build up within them, this in turn can lead to an angina or heart attack.
Be mindful of your heart health
There is a connection between being above the normal weight range and an increased risk of heart issues, however there are ways you can reduce your risks:
- Stick to a healthy diet
Eat a balanced diet that is rich with the essential nutrients your body requires.
- Get checked up
Have your cholesterol and blood pressure tested regularly. Aim to have your cholesterol checked every 4-6 years or more frequently if your doctor recommends it. With blood pressure, unless your doctor advises otherwise, have it measured every 2 years.
- Keep a check on your waistline
An expanding waistline could be a sign of increasing visceral fat.
- Stay active
Aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity or 75 minutes high intensity per week.
- Stop smoking
If you’re a heavy smoker, try cutting back on your intake gradually. Don’t be afraid to seek help from your doctor for help getting you on the right track to giving up.
If you are concerned about your heart health, speak to your doctor about arranging a cardiac evaluation.