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Cardiovascular Disease and Weight Loss

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is an umbrella term covering disorders of the heart and blood vessels. It includes coronary artery disease, atherosclerosis, and hypertension (high blood pressure). Overweight, lack of exercise, stress, and a high-fat diet are major contributing factors to all CVD. Coronary artery disease: In order to supply the rest of the body with blood, the heart muscle needs oxygenated blood itself. It gets it from the coronary arteries located on the outside wall of the heart.

When one or more of these arteries are narrowed, blood flow is restricted or may be halted altogether. The result is coronary artery disease, the major underlying cause of heart attack. One sign that the heart muscle is not getting enough oxygen are the chest pains of angina. This type of chest pain usually occurs during activity and is relieved by rest.

Atherosclerosis: This is a condition in which fatty deposits build up on the inside of arterial walls. As the arteries narrow, they cannot carry sufficient blood to the tissues. To compensate, the heart pumps harder, blood pressure increases, and many parts of the body are damaged as a result. Everything from poor circulation in the limbs to heart attack and stroke can be blamed on atherosclerosis.

Some people are more prone to atherosclerosis than others, but there is no question that a high­fat diet is a major contributor. People who are overweight, lead a sedentary lifestyle, and have high cholesterol levels are at much increased risk for developing atherosclerosis. High blood pressure: Also called hypertension, high blood pressure is a condition in which the pressure exerted by blood as it is pumped through the arteries is consistently higher than normal. Normally, blood pressure at rest should not be greater than 120/80. Blood pressure is considered high if it is repeatedly and persistently higher than 140/90. High blood pressure can damage the arteries, heart, and other organs, including the kidneys and the eyes.

It increases the risk for heart attack, coronary artery disease, a stroke, kidney failure, and loss of sight due to damage to the retina. Hypertension is more common in men than women, and the incidence increases with age. Being overweight is one of the most important risk factors for high blood pressure. People who are 20 percent overweight are eight times more likely to have high blood pressure than people of normal weight. When your blood pressure is taken, the compression cuff on your arm causes a column of mercury to rise in a metered column. Two measurements are taken: the systolic reading is blood pressure at its highest, when the heart muscle contracts; the diastolic reading is blood pressure at its low point, when the heart muscle relaxes.

In a blood pressure reading of 120/80, for example, the higher number (120) is systolic, the lower (80) is diastolic. Cardiovascular disease.

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