The Longer You’re Obese, the Harder on Your Heart

Increased risk of heart disease linked to obesity length
length of obesity

It’s known that obesity is a risk factor for heart disease.

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Now a new study says the longer period of time that you’re obese, the harder it is on your heart.

The study links obesity beginning in young adulthood to an increased risk of heart disease.

Time an important factor in risk

Leslie Cho, MD, did not take part in the study but is a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic. She agrees with the study’s findings that time is an important factor in the link between obesity and heart problems.

“Being obese for an extended period of time — even if that period started when you were a child — is actually really bad for you and your heart,” Dr. Cho says.

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Calcification result of obesity

Researchers at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute followed nearly 3,300 people for almost 30 years. Results show 40 percent of the participants became obese during the course of the study.

A closer look shows 30 percent of those who became obese showed signs of coronary artery calcification, which is a predictor of heart disease.

“Plaques build up in the walls and get irritated,” says Dr. Cho. “The body tries to alleviate this by producing calcium, so you have more and more calcium buildup in the coronary arteries.”

Crunch the study numbers even further and you’ll find that nearly half of the people with high calcium scores had been obese for 20 years or more.

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Start early to work on weight management

Early intervention could be key in helping your child avoid both the physical and emotional perils of obesity.

Pediatric preventive cardiologist Naim Alkhouri, MD, recommends these quick tips, called 5! To Go, for parents to remember:

  • Eat 5 fruits and vegetables a day.
  • 4 dairy or calcium servings a day for strong bones.
  • Give and get 3 compliments a day to build self-esteem.
  • Limit media/tv/computer/screen time to 2 hours a day.
  • Get at least 1 hour of exercise a day.
  • 0 fluids containing calories except for low-fat milk.

Healthy eating habits and exercise, begun early, can make a big difference in a child’s weight and future risk for heart disease and other health complications.

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