Thousands of 5-Star Reviews From Real Customers - Find Out Why Our Customers Love Us Here!
Canadian Med Center

Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease

Monday 15 April 2024
7 minute(s) read

Table of Contents

I. What is Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)?

i. Risk Factors of CVD

II. How Obesity Causes Cardiovascular Disease

III. How to Reduce Your Risk

i. Regular Exercise

ii. Diet

IV. Conclusion

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains a leading cause of death around the world. [1] While there are many risk factors for CVD, one that has become increasingly concerning is obesity. Over the past two decades, the number of cardiovascular deaths related to obesity has tripled. [2]

In this article, we will explore what cardiovascular disease is, examine the relationship between obesity and CVD, and provide actionable tips for reducing your risk of cardiovascular problems. 

What is Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)?

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is an umbrella term for a range of conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels. There are five main types of CVD that affect different parts of the circulatory system in various ways.

  • Coronary Heart Disease: This condition occurs when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscle is obstructed or reduced. The heart is strained, leading to angina (chest pain), heart attacks, and potentially heart failure. It is crucial to manage risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, and obesity to prevent or manage this condition.
  • Stroke: A stroke happens when the blood supply to a part of the brain is cut off. This interruption can cause brain damage and, in severe cases, even death. Reducing the risk of strokes involves controlling blood pressure, maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding smoking.
  • Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA): A TIA is a temporary disruption of blood flow to the brain. Although the symptoms are transient, they should not be ignored, as they may indicate an increased risk of a subsequent stroke. Seeking medical attention after experiencing a TIA is essential for further evaluation and preventive measures.
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease: This condition arises when there is a blockage in the arteries supplying blood to the limbs, primarily the legs. Symptoms may include numbness, weakness, persistent sores on the feet and legs, and leg pain. Managing risk factors like smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol is vital to prevent and control peripheral arterial disease.
  • Aortic Disease: Aortic diseases encompass a group of conditions that affect the aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body. One common aortic disease is an aortic aneurysm, where the aorta weakens and bulges outward. While an aortic aneurysm may not exhibit symptoms, it poses a risk of bursting, which can lead to life-threatening bleeding. [3]

Risk Factors of CVD

The exact cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains unclear, but there are several factors that can increase your risk of developing it. Understanding these risk factors is crucial because the more of them you have, the greater your chances of developing CVD. [3]

  • High blood pressure: This is one of the most significant risk factors for CVD. Blood pressure that is consistently too high damages blood vessels over time.
  • Smoking: The toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage and narrow your blood vessels.
  • High cholesterol: Cholesterol can slowly build up in your blood vessels and form plaque that makes blood flow more difficult. This can increase your risk of blood clots.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes increases blood sugar levels, which damages blood vessels over time. Additionally, many people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese, which is also a risk factor for CVD.
  • Inactivity: Being inactive increases your chances of having other CVD risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity.
  • Obesity: Obesity stresses the heart and impacts blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar. Keeping your BMI below 25 and waist circumference under 37 inches for men and 31.5 inches for women reduces CVD risk.
  • Family history: Having a family history of early CVD increases your personal risk. Let your doctor know if your father or brother was diagnosed before 55 or your mother or sister before 65. Certain screening and prevention steps may start earlier or be emphasized more if CVD runs in your family. [3]

How Obesity Causes Cardiovascular Disease

doctor using anatomical heart model to educate patient

New research highlights the direct link between excess weight and heart damage. According to a recent study from Johns Hopkins University, obesity alone can lead to cardiovascular disease, regardless of other heart disease risk factors like type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure. [4]

The study focused on measuring levels of an enzyme called troponin T, which is released into the bloodstream when heart muscle cells are injured. Highly sensitive tests can now detect even small amounts of troponin T. [4]

The Johns Hopkins researchers measured troponin T levels and body mass index (BMI) in over 9,500 adults without heart disease. They found a strong connection between higher BMI and higher troponin T levels. [4] We’ve summarized the study results below:

  • Over 12 years, the most obese participants (BMI over 35) developed the most heart failure.
  • Those with the highest troponin T levels also developed more heart failure.
  • Those who were most obese and had high troponin T levels were nine times more likely to develop heart failure than those of normal weight and undetectable troponin T. [4]

Even being moderately overweight increases the risks. And the more excess weight, the higher the risks, especially for the obese and severely obese. [4]

How to Reduce Your Risk

man stretching at the park

Taking care of your health can go a long way toward lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Even if you already have CVD, making healthy choices can help prevent it from progressing. [3]

If you are currently overweight or obese, a combination of regular physical activity and a nutritious diet can greatly assist in weight loss. By incorporating exercise into your routine and making healthier food choices, you can gradually shed those extra pounds and improve your overall well-being. [3]

If you are finding it difficult to lose weight or adopt healthier habits, talk to your primary care doctor. They can assist you in creating a personalized weight loss plan tailored to your specific needs. Moreover, they may also be able to suggest additional services available in your local area that can further support your weight loss journey.

Regular Exercise

Regular physical activity helps prevent obesity in multiple ways.

  • Burns calories: Engaging in exercise helps you burn calories, allowing you to achieve an energy balance or even lose weight, if you don't consume more calories to compensate for what you've burned. 
  • Decreases fat around the waist and total body fat: This is particularly significant as excess abdominal fat is strongly linked to the development of obesity-related health issues like diabetes and heart disease.
  • Builds muscle mass: The more muscle mass you have, the more calories your body burns, even at rest. Building muscle through weightlifting, push-ups, squats, and other resistance exercises is crucial for boosting your metabolism. [5]

Health experts recommend getting at least 30 minutes per day of moderate activity like brisk walking on most days. However, to lose significant weight or keep it off long-term, most people need about an hour a day to counteract our increasingly sedentary modern lifestyles and constant exposure to calorie-dense foods. [5]


Exercise is a crucial component for weight loss, but it is most effective when combined with a lower calorie eating plan. While exercise alone can yield results, individuals who do not monitor their calorie intake may need to engage in longer periods of exercise or higher intensity workouts to achieve weight loss. [5]

For example, in one study, researchers randomly assigned 175 overweight, inactive adults to either a control group that didn’t receive exercise guidance or one of three exercise regimens for six months:

  • Low intensity (walking 12 miles per week)
  • Medium intensity (jogging 12 miles per week)
  • High intensity (jogging 20 miles per week) [5]

All participants in this study followed their regular diets and did not reduce the number of calories they consumed. At the end of the study, only those in the high-intensity group lost belly fat. The low- and medium-intensity groups showed no change. [5]

Maintaining a balanced, nutritious diet also supports heart health. The following dietary recommendations can help keep your heart healthy:

  • Limit saturated fat intake by choosing lean meats, olive oil, nuts, seeds, and oily fish over fatty cuts of meat, lard, cream, and baked goods.
  • Eat plenty of fiber and whole grains.


The connection between obesity and cardiovascular disease highlights why maintaining a healthy weight and lifestyle should be a top priority. Losing weight through diet and exercise, quitting smoking, managing stress, and other preventive steps can significantly lower CVD risk. 

For more on obesity and associated risks, check out our obesity blog.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.