Heart Disease and Obesity

Obesity (being overweight) results from an imbalance between caloric intake and usage. The amount of energy absorbed exceeds that expended, the difference ends up as body fat. There are many contributing factors - diet is one of them as excessive calorie intake leads to weight gain. By the World Health Organization's definition, adults are considered overweight if their body mass index (BMI) is 25-29.9, and obese if the BMI is 30 or more. BMI is a measure of a person's body weight-toheight ratio. It's calculated dividing a person's body weight in kilograms by the square of his or her height in meters (kg/m2). It matters where your body stores its excess fat. People who carry most of their fat around their stomachs have a higher risk of having heart disease and diabetes than those who carry it around their hips.

Canadian Obesity Trends

In Canada, more than 6 million people between 20 to 64 years old are overweight and another 2.8 million are obese. Together they represent 47% of the Canadian adult population. The prevalence in children is even more alarming. In 1998/99, the overweight and obesity rates among children age 2 -11 years old were 37% and 18% compared to 35% and 15% for adults. "This year, every day almost 1,000 Canadian Baby Boomers will turn 60, entering the prime age for heart disease and stroke," says Dr. Beth Abramson, Heart and Stroke Foundation spokesperson and cardiologist. "Rising obesity rates and inactivity among Boomers could threaten years of steady progress towards better heart health."

Despite sustained attention to the health impact of obesity, a recent Heart and Stroke Foundation survey showed that a shocking 58% of Boomers think their weight has little or no effect on their heart health.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Annual Report on Canadians’ Health reveals that the wave of Canadian Baby Boomers now turning 60 could be the first generation to turn back the clock and experience a decline in quality of life. Compared to 10 years ago, the rates of obesity in Boomers have soared by nearly 60%, a whopping 52% are inactive and yet 80% still think they will enjoy a longer life expectancy than previous generations.

There have been dramatic increases in overweight and obesity among Canadians over the past 30 years, and many experts fear it to be an epidemic. This growing health problem has translated into a large economic burden, reaching approximately $4.3 billion annually by most recent estimates.

Shifting perceptions about what constitutes a "normal" meal portion size, the increased availability of pre-prepared foods and the more sedentary "couch potato" lifestyles of individuals within developed societies have added to the obesity problem.

Facts about Obesity and Heart Disease

If you are overweight, you are more likely to have heart disease. Extra weight can raise blood pressure and blood cholesterol and lead to diabetes.

Work with your doctor:

  • To control your blood cholesterol.

  • To control the other factors that can lead to heart disease.

Individuals can manage their risk factors by eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, being smoke-free, knowing and controlling cholesterol and blood pressure levels, reducing stress, managing diabetes, and limiting alcohol intake.

Control your Weight and Reduce your Risk of Heart Disease

  • Plan to be active 30 minutes or more every day.

  • Change how you eat.

  • Eat 3 healthy meals a day.

  • Plan your meals around high-fibre foods: vegetables and fruit legumes such as dried peas, dried beans, and lentils

  • whole grain products such as brown rice, whole grain bread, whole grain cereals

  • Change your eating habits (e.g., take time to eat, eat slowly, take smaller bites).

  • Cut down on fat.

  • Reduce amount of fat you add to your food.

  • Cook with little or no fat.

  • Choose low-fat meat.

  • Choose chicken and fish.

  • Choose nonfat or low-fat dairy products.

  • Avoid high-fat desserts and snack foods.

  • Eat smaller portions of foods that contain fat.

  • When you are eating out, choose low-fat foods.

  • Cut down on calories.