Last week I began discussing a topic that is very pertinent to the fire service – heart health.
Aside from smoking, there are 5 major heart disease risk factors: obesity, high blood pressure, high blood glucose (development of type II diabetes), poor blood cholesterol (high LDL/total cholesterol and low HDL) and low aerobic fitness.
Today’s topic is obesity. Obesity leads to heart disease for two reasons: 1) it causes chronic inflammation; 2) it is the single greatest risk factor for developing high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes, which also contribute to heart disease.
Inflammation is the body’s natural immune response, so it’s beneficial in acute conditions, like a cold. However, some behaviors end up causing an overactive immune response that results in chronic inflammation, also called “systemic” or “low grade” inflammation.
Chronic inflammation contributes to the development of fatty plaque in the arteries (atherosclerosis) which is the most common form of heart disease. It also leads to stroke, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and other health problems.
Aside from losing weight, other things you can do to combat inflammation are: avoid smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, stress, and consuming a lot of simple carbs and saturated fats. Sleep deprivation is also a contributor (potentially because it increases stress) so try to get as much sleep as you can. Antioxidants reduce inflammation, as do omega-3 fats, so eat more fruits and vegetables, fatty fish, flaxseed and walnuts.
Obesity has other health hazards
Obesity is also a major risk factor for developing cancer, gallstones and arthritis. Since both high pressure on joints and inflammation are known to cause arthritis, it makes sense that obesity is a primary contributor. Many people who lose weight find relief from arthritis.
Although, as I’ve explained, being obese is very bad for your health and should be avoided, your weight does not completely dictate your health status. If you’re overweight but still manage to maintain a high aerobic fitness you’re much healthier than someone who is lean but not aerobically fit. I’ll dive more into this next week.
I challenge you to take the pledge to lose weight and/or work on reducing inflammation from stress, sleep deprivation and poor health habits. Please leave your name below so we can cheer you on.
If you’re not on my list to get more health tips like these, enter your name and email below.