People with obesity who also have hypertension are at higher risk of heart attacks and strokes. They are also likely to have a higher mortality rate compared to those with a healthy body weight. This was highlighted at the recent annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), where it was pointed out that for middle-aged, overweight people with high blood pressure, the risk of heart attacks and strokes increases by 35 percent.
According to media reports, it was also pointed out that hypertensive, overweight people are likely to suffer an adverse cardiac event (like a heart attack or stroke) at least two years earlier than healthy individuals in their age group. The meeting also revealed that at least 31 percent of the global population is affected by metabolic syndrome, especially obesity. The researchers elaborated on the findings of their study based on the data collected from 34,269 middle-aged adults (in their 40s and 50s) who attended a cardiovascular screening program in the Swedish county of Västmanland. Obesity and hypertension were highlighted as the primary lifestyle conditions contributing to the early onset of cardiovascular complications across the globe.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), metabolic syndrome refers to the collection of five conditions that could lead to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and stroke. They include:
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar levels
- High triglyceride levels
- Low levels of good cholesterol
- Excess abdominal fat
Obesity and risk of heart conditions
Overweight people are likely to have excess fat deposits under their skin (known as adipose fat tissue) and on their internal organs (called visceral fat), which increase their body weight. “This exerts extra pressure on the heart to ensure proper blood circulation,” says Dr Thejaswi N Marla, cardiothoracic vascular surgeon, Fortis Malar Hospital, Chennai.
Dr Rajesh Bhat, cardiologist, Kasturba Medical College Hospital, Mangalore, explains that people with excess adipose fat tissue are more prone to inflammation, elevated blood cholesterol levels and plaque build-up in their arteries. This obstructs blood flow into the arteries and makes the heart pump harder to ensure proper circulation to various parts of the body, further increasing blood pressure.
Dr Marla also points out that a sedentary lifestyle coupled with an unhealthy diet are the most common reasons for obesity. Excess consumption of ultra-processed foods rich in trans fatty acids is also considered a high-risk factor for heart attacks, as it increases bad cholesterol and triglyceride levels in your blood. High cholesterol, in turn, increases the risk of stroke in both overweight people and those with a healthy body weight.
Precautions for people with obesity and hypertension
Experts recommend some lifestyle measures to reduce excess body weight and maintain heart health, which include:
♦ Regular physical activity
Engaging in light- to moderate-intensity physical activities is often recommended as the best way to keep your heart healthy. It helps burn excess fat from the body, making it easier for the heart to pump blood. It also helps keep blood glucose levels under control and reduces blood pressure.
♦ A healthy diet
Having a balanced, heart-friendly diet is key to maintaining your heart health. According to experts, a healthy diet combined with an active lifestyle will help keep heart conditions at bay. It is recommended to include balanced amounts of green leafy vegetables, eggs and fruits in your diet, while completely avoiding junk food to ensure that your body gets a balanced amount of healthy fats, proteins and complex carbohydrates on a daily basis. Dr Marla says it is important to consume protein in moderation, as excess consumption can harm the kidneys.
♦ Regular checkups
It is important to keep an eye on your cholesterol and blood sugar levels. According to Dr Bhat, people with obesity and hypertension should go for regular health checkups and get medical help if required.
♦ Avoiding smoking and alcohol consumption
Experts say it’s important to refrain from smoking and alcohol consumption. Tobacco and alcohol could alter your blood pressure and glucose levels, which in turn could impact your heart health. Excess alcohol consumption is a major reason for obesity in some individuals.
- Overweight adults with hypertension are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular complications.
- A sedentary lifestyle coupled with an unhealthy diet are the most common reasons for obesity, which in turn can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
- Regular physical activity, a healthy diet and regular checkups are important for people with obesity and hypertension.
- Those with obesity should also avoid smoking and alcohol consumption, which could alter their blood pressure and blood glucose levels.