While obesity is becoming increasingly prevalent in our society, it isn’t always just weakness of will or laziness which causes it (hint: weight gain can happen without overeating!). However, what most of us do know is that obesity is bad for our health, particularly when it comes to heart disease.
And, while it is true that there are those who simply lack self-control, there are many others who may be experiencing such conditions as underactive thyroid, hormone disruption, a slowing metabolism due to aging, or even a lack of an understanding of the effects some types of calories have on their girth.
The bottom line is that no matter the cause, being overweight puts an unhealthy strain on your heart which can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke, as well as other diseases such as type-2 diabetes, osteoarthritis and cancer.
What is Obesity, and How is it Measured?
Obesity is described as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more due to high levels of body fat, with “normal” being 18.5 to 24.9 and “overweight” being 25 to 29.9.
However, it should also be noted that this measurement can sometimes be deceiving due to not everyone being built the same. Since BMI is a measurement of a person’s weight in kilograms divided by their height in meters squared (go here for an easy BMI calculator), it works just fine for those who are younger and of average build. However, those with muscular builds or heavy bone structure may register as overweight or obese even though they have little body fat.
Older adults also may have less muscle mass and higher body fat for the same BMI as a younger person with more muscle mass and less body fat, and there are other contributing factors to consider as well such as gender and ethnicity. (1)
While there are more accurate ways of measuring body fat such as DEXA (x-ray) scan or weighing in water, a quick and easy method you can use is the pinch test. No, it won’t tell you the exact amount of body fat you have, although by grabbing a fold of skin around your mid-section and seeing if you can “pinch-an-inch” or more, you can get a pretty good idea of where you stand.
And, if you are able to pinch-an-inch or more, your heart is probably working harder than it should be!
The Effects Obesity Has on Your Heart
When it comes to high levels of body fat, your heart has its work cut out. For instance, high body fat increases vascular resistance, which means the heart has to pump much harder to deliver blood to all the body’s cells. In turn, this causes the heart’s left ventricle to increase in size (hypertrophy) along with additional strain on the right ventricle, which altogether means increased pulmonary hypertension, AKA high blood pressure.
This is in unison with the effect high blood lipids have on the kidneys, which are responsible for producing blood pressure-regulating hormones. When the kidneys are unable to produce these hormones, the results are also high blood pressure.
Unfortunately, both high blood pressure and high blood lipids can lead to a stroke, which happens either when a blood vessel to the brain is either clogged from cholesterol (LDL, AKA “bad” cholesterol), or bursts due to excessive pressure. (2)
Other effects of having too much body fat are increased inflammation in the body, sleep apnea, and simply having to work harder to carry around extra weight, all of which are linked to such conditions as high blood pressure, heart arrhythmia and insulin resistance.
Altogether, these factors can lead to heart attack, stroke, type-2 diabetes, kidney disease, asthma, cancer and many other dangerous chronic conditions. (3)
Causes of Obesity
Again, most obese or overweight people aren’t trenchermen who simply live to eat, and many became that way due to problems with their thyroid or other hormonal disruptions. Genetics can also play a role in a person’s weight management, and such conditions as chronic stress, aging, or environmental hormonal disruption can lead to a slowed metabolism and weight gain.
Since thyroid hormones in particular are necessary in maintaining a healthy metabolism, weight gain due to endocrine disruption is nearly impossible to combat with diet and exercise alone. This means that for those suffering from such conditions as hypothyroidism, bioidentical hormone therapy in the form of compounded T3/T4 may be the best way to restore their metabolism for optimal weight management.
There is also our standard American diet (SAD) to consider when managing your weight, which is the likely reason over 70.2% of men and women in the US were overweight or obese in 2014. (4) This is because much of what makes up our SAD is highly processed simple sugars along with trans and hydrogenated fats, none of which are good for your waistline—or your general health.
For instance, unless you are exercising at a high level, simple carbohydrates metabolize faster than your body can use them. When this happens, your body stores the energy as fat to be used later, and since later often doesn’t always happen, those easily-digested sugars, white flour and other simple starches tend to up add up around your waistline. (5)
Trans fats and hydrogenated fats have also increased blood levels of LDL which then cause inflammation, weight gain and increased insulin resistance.
Even worse is that these types of foods can cause weight gain even when you are careful to stay within your daily caloric needs—frustrating! (6)
Managing Your Weight
Of course, if you are even a few pounds overweight, it is in your best interest to make a few lifestyle changes to get your weight back down. This will not only help you avoid such dangerous conditions as heart attack and stroke, but will also help you have better energy, improved sense of well-being, and other benefits which go along with a healthy weight.
For those whose weight is connected to their SAD, switching to a diet of natural whole foods which includes lean, grass-fed meats, plenty of fibrous, multi-colored (and preferably organic) fruits and vegetables, and complex carbohydrates such as come from legumes or nuts is recommended. Sources of omega-3 fatty acids such as fresh wild-caught salmon, olive oil or coconut oil should also be added, which will increase the body’s HDL (AKA “good” cholesterol) levels and further reduce your risk of heart attack and other diseases.
This should go in unison with daily exercise, and the good news for you here is that it doesn’t have to be anything strenuous, so long as you get out and move. This can be as simple as taking daily walks, dancing, or enjoying evening bike rides around the neighborhood with family or friends.
The important thing is that you use movement and exercise to activate your heart and lungs for around 150 minutes per week, and that you avoid sitting for extended periods which can also lead to obesity and cardiovascular disease.
What About Hormonal Weight Gain?
Unfortunately, conditions such as hypothyroidism can render diet and exercise alone nearly useless in combating weight gain. This can also be the case in the instance of environmental endocrine disruption, which can be caused by such things as:
- Synthetic fragrances
- Certain plastics
- Synthetic pesticides
- Soy products
- Certain pharmaceutical drugs (7)
In the instance of environmental disruptors, it is usually a matter of identifying and avoiding the disruptor to restore your metabolism.
For hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy with compounded T3/T4 can help restore your thyroid function back to normal. This entails the use of hormones which are identical in cellular structure to the ones produced by the human body, and which act in the same manner as those produced in the body. (8)
In women, a progesterone deficiency leads to a condition called estrogen dominance which slows your metabolism and causes weight gain. Supplementing with bioidentical progesterone will balance the estrogen, thereby eliminating the estrogen dominance. Progesterone promotes the assimilation of the thyroid hormone into your cells, increasing your metabolism, and relieving fluid retention.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is safer than traditional hormone replacement therapies which rely on synthetic hormones derived from such things as horse urine, and which may come with health risks, including high blood pressure and cancer. (9)
In men, bioidentical testosterone helps decrease body fat around the waist. Research shows that long-term testosterone therapy in men with testosterone deficiency produces significant and sustained weight loss, marked reduction in waist circumference and BMI and improvement in body composition. These findings represent strong foundations for testosterone therapy in obese men with testosterone deficiency. (10)
Your risk for heart disease goes up with every excess pound you carry, which is why being aware of the causes of weight-gain and how to combat it is so important.
However, losing weight can be hard, especially for those experiencing such conditions as age-related hormone decline, or who adhere to a SAD.
The good news is, by learning how different types of calories affect your weight, you can better arm yourself with the information you need to make the lifestyle changes necessary for achieving a healthy BMI.
And, in the instance of hormone decline such as from hypothyroidism or a decline in your sex hormones, using natural, safe and effective bioidentical hormone replacement therapy is the best way to restore a healthy metabolism.
The bottom line is, if you are overweight or obese, your heart is working harder than it should – not to mention that losing weight also means better self-esteem, mental function and sense of well-being!
Watch as Dr. Hotze discusses the top 6 causes of weight gain:
Could Hypothyroidism be causing your weight gain?
Take our symptom checker to find out if you could have low thyroid function. Let us help. Our doctors are experts at diagnosing and treating hypothyroidism. Call our Wellness Consultants today at 281-698-8698 for your complimentary wellness consultation.