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When discussing heart health, there is an inevitable correlation between obesity and heart disease. To emphasize how serious obesity is, it’s second only to smoking as the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 34.9 percent of adults and 16.9 percent of children were obese in 2011-2012.

To better understand obesity, let’s first define it. Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) equal to or greater than 30 kg/m2. Obesity increases the risk of multiple chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obstructive sleep apnea, stroke, among other health conditions. According to the World Health Organization, Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is the number one contributing factor leading to death globally; obesity increases the risk of CVD.

According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), between 2007-2010 there were approximately 5.1 million Americans 20 years or older who suffered from heart failure. A higher BMI will increase the risk of heart failure. For every one unit of increase in BMI, the risk of heart failure rises by 5-7 percent in both men and women. Also, according to the NHANES, from 2007-1010, approximately 15.4 million Americans over the age of 20 were diagnosed with Coronary Heart Disease. In 2009, 49 percent of deaths were attributed to cardiovascular disease.

Obesity can also be directly related to stroke, another serious condition that affects many Americans.  Each year approximately 795,000 people experience a stroke. Based on the NHANES, between 2007-2010, there were 6.8 million Americans over the age of 20 who experienced a stroke. A stroke occurs when there is a significant lack of oxygen delivered to the brain. During this specific time, the brain cells with low or no oxygen will begin to die, resulting in a stroke.

Obesity-related heart disease and stroke is a serious issue for many people across the United States.  While it may be a high risk for many, there are many ways to better prevent and manage it. To avoid the risks, practice healthy eating habits, and be sure to engage in regular physical activity.