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Overweight - Understanding How Weight Overloads Your Heart

Understanding How Weight Overloads Your Heart

It is widely known that people who are overweight are at risk for heart disease. A person who is 20 percent or more over their ideal weight is considered overweight.

For example, a short, small-boned woman whose ideal weight is 110 pounds would be considered overweight at 132 pounds. Her heart will work harder to pump blood to those extra 22 pounds.

Overweight people are likely to be more sedentary than their slimmer peers. Being overweight makes it harder for people to remain active-they may feel self-conscious when they exercise, or they may become tired, out-of-breath or discouraged by their exertions. An overweight person is more likely to be sedentary, and a sedentary person is more likely to be overweight. Both overweight and a sedentary lifestyle contribute to heart disease.

But the solution to an overweight problem is not just cutting calories out of the diet. Studies now show that weight-loss diets that simply restrict calories are rarely successful in the long run. Instead, consider a balanced, healthy eating plan that's very low in fat and cholesterol and high in complex carbohydrates. A diet like this emphasizes whole grains, vegetables and fruits and includes moderate amounts of protein rich foods such as lean meats, skinless poultry, fish, tofu, dried peas, beans and lentils and nonfat dairy products.

In addition to the lowfat diet, start a program of moderate aerobic exercise, such as a daily 30-minute walk, or an hour-long walk every other day.

An overweight person is more likely to be sedentary, and a sedentary person is more likely to be overweight. Both overweight and a sedentary lifestyle contribute to heart disease.

To learn more about how being overweight effects your personal risk for heart disease, talk to your healthcare provider. Ask your healthcare provider to help you plan a diet and exercise program for reducing your risk.

Are we all getting fatter

In our present-day society, weight gain with age seems to be a common phenomenon until late middle-age (- 55 years). In the USA, studies prove that about one third of US adults can be considered overweight. The same tendency is prevalent in all Western countries. A study carried out in Finland in 1972 - 1992 showed that 60 % of men and 50 % of the population aged 30 - 59 were overweight and almost 20 % were obese. Weight gain is also increasing in undeveloped countries. Moreover, the prevalence of overweight and obesity tends to show a constant rise.

Where does the overweight come from

"Overweight is mostly a lifestyle and health behaviour problem," says Maarit Korkeila. Our present ways of living are far from healthy. We outdo the previous generations in many ways: we eat more, we consume more alcohol, we possibly even smoke more. And, above all, we are physically much more inactive, thanks to cars, lifts, buses, machinery and home appliances.

physical inactivity seems to be both the cause and the result of obesity, states Korkeila. Over-eating also generates more of the same, since it changes the hunger signal of the body and leads to exceptional behaviour.

Among the most "distressing" outcomes of Korkeilas study were the now scientifically proven harmful results from constant dieting and the fact that they may result in weight gain rather than loss (a familiar phenomenon to many who have attempted dieting). Korkeila shows us that an attempt to lose weight leads to major weight gain. To maintain weight loss is difficult, and frequent attempts to diet may lead to harmful weight cycling.

So, good-bye to all miracle diets which are potentially unhealthy and certainly useless. Instead, a permanent change of lifestyle is called for.

Meet your personal Body Mass Index

The method Korkeila chose for her comparative study was the use of the Body Mass Index (BMI). The Index is calculated by dividing a persons weight in kilograms by his/her height in metres squared (kg / m2). In the BMI classification, BMI cut-off points for the different grades of overweight are 25, 30, 35, 40 (slight and moderate overweight, obesity, severe and morbid obesity).

The subjects of the study were members of the Finnish Twin Cohort Study, originally compiled in 1974, who had received similar questionnaires twice before, in 1975 and 1981. Altogether 3,536 men and 4,193 women were monitored over follow-up periods of 6 and 15 years.

Various goals were set for the study. Among them were to estimate the heritability of the body mass index, to study weight change in the chosen twins, and to evaluate how estimates of heritability might vary by gender and age.

Korkeila also wanted to identify potential behavioural and psycho-social risk factors for long-term weight changes, as well as to find out whether the effect of one environmental factor, namely physical activity, might be independent of genetic factors.

Unlike overweight, anorexia is not a nutrition problem but an eating disorder, although overweight may also contain an eating disorder component, says Korkeila. Anorexia is not incurable, but it is often closely linked with other hard-to-treat problems, such as low self-esteem and a disturbed body image. The desire to please other people is very strong, but the ability to accept ones own self is lacking, especially if a young person receives the wrong kind of dieting example at home.

Blame the stress

Nor surprisingly, the study proved that body weight is determined by both heredity and the environment operating through complex interactions. The variance of BMI seems to a considerable degree determined by additive genetic factors, while variations in weight changes were explained by environmental factors rather than genetic ones.

And what are these environmental factors According to Korkeila, high levels of stress in men and low levels of life-satisfaction and high levels of neuroticism in women are correlated with major weight gain. The socio-economic factors and education also seem to play a role. Low socio-economic status is related to higher body weight in several populations. Reports based on Finnish adults show that there is an inverse relationship between weight and educational level.

Although the variation in BMI is strongly heritable, especially with younger people, adult weight gain is not a predestined condition. permanent changes in health behaviour are called for if overweight is to be avoided.

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