Obesity Effects Heart Disease

According to the Mayo Clinic, heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women around the world, and responsible for 40 percent of all U.S. deaths. Obesity and weight gain increase the risk of multiple types of heart disease, heart failure and heart attacks.

Types of Heart Disease

The term “heart disease” actually covers a range of heart conditions that may be worsened or caused by obesity, including:

  • Atherosclerosis (Hardening of the arteries)
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Stroke.

Effects of Obesity on the Heart

Scientists have discovered many complications and effects of obesity that can lead to heart disease. Obesity increases the risk of high blood pressure and raises blood cholesterol levels. Weight gain also tends to reduce levels of HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol that prevents heart disease and stroke.

Obesity and Heart Disease - Effects of Obesity

Effects of obesity also include increased risk of diabetes. Diabetes worsens the symptoms described above, increasing risk of heart attacks and other heart problems in obese and diabetic individuals.

Effects of Obesity: Heart Attacks

A study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (2008) involving 111,847 people who experienced their first heart attack between 2001 and 2007. While people of normal weight tended to have heart attacks in their 70s, obese participants averaged their first heart attacks over 10 years earlier. This study underlines the negative effects of obesity on heart disease.

Waist Circumference and Heart Disease Risk

Heart disease risk is tied to both high body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference. This is how BMI scores are classified:

  • 25 to 29.9: Overweight
  • 30 to 39.9: Obese
  • 40 or higher: Severely (morbidly) obese.

Waist circumference can also indicate your risk of heart disease. For men, a waist circumference of 40 inches or more is considered high risk, and a woman’s risk increases with a waist circumference of 35 inches or more.

Heart Disease Symptoms

Common heart disease symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Fainting
  • “Fluttering” sensation in the chest
  • Lightheadedness/dizziness
  • Numb or cold extremities
  • Pain or weakness in the arms or legs
  • Rapid or slow heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath.

Individuals experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath and fainting should get emergency medical care to rule out or treat heart disease symptoms or another serious condition. Don’t dismiss possible heart disease symptoms: Always take these warning signs seriously.


American Heart Association. (n.d.). Obesity and overweight. Retrieved June 8, 2010, from http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4639.

Beaumont Hospitals. (2008). Beaumont study finds obesity link to early heart attack. Retrieved June 8, 2010, from https://www.beaumonthospitals.com/news-story-beaumont-peter-mccullough-heart-attack-obesity.

Mayo Clinic. (2009). Heart disease. Retrieved June 8, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-disease/DS01120/METHOD=print.