Body composition is the percentage of bone, muscle, water and fat you carry. The more fat you have, the higher your risk of obesity and cardiovascular disease. The body mass index (BMI) is an internationally used means for measuring your body composition that you or your physician can calculate. The results of your BMI can help you determine what changes you need to make to improve your health and lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
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Cardiovascular System Defined
The cardiovascular system includes your heart, blood and blood vessels. Your heart is the epicenter of life; it serves to push fresh blood to your organs, tissues and cells. The blood pumped from your heart to each organ removes waste from your cells to permit normal blood circulation throughout your body. Lifestyle factors like diet, physical activity and weight impact how well your cardiovascular system works. If you eat a diet high in fat, plaque from fat and cholesterol can accumulate in your blood vessels, resulting in poor blood flow. If you are sedentary, poor circulation of blood through your extremities may occur. Extra pounds increase your risk of high cholesterol, arterial blockage and excess fat around your heart.
Determining Body Mass
Calculate your body composition and risk for cardiovascular disease with the body mass index. Multiply your weight in pounds by 703, divide by your height in inches, then divide again by your height in inches. The result indicates your BMI value. A value of 18.5 to 24.9 means you are at a healthy weight and are not at risk for cardiovascular disease. A body mass value of 25.0 to 30.0 means you are overweight. If the value is 30.0 or above, you are considered obese and at high risk of cardiovascular disease. A value of 18.5 or below is considered underweight and may also indicate a risk of cardiovascular problems like poor circulation and excessively low blood pressure.
Excess weight raises your risk of high blood pressure, high triglyceride levels, or blood fats, and high cholesterol. High visceral fat, which accumulates around your waist, is a specific risk indicating possible inflammation through your blood vessels. If your body mass value concludes obesity, you are at further risk of renal function disorders that alter how your body registers blood pressure. The capillaries in your tissues may experience wall stress and become unable to release oxygen to your cells in order to make energy and relinquish waste products. A BMI that is significantly underweight has implications for risk of atherothrombotic cardiovascular disease. This includes carotid artery insufficiency, transient ischemic attacks, which are like miniature strokes, and circulatory problems.
Achieve Healthy Body Mass
A diet plentiful in plant-based foods like fresh fruits, vegetables and grains can help you achieve a healthy body mass. Limit your intake of saturated fats from foods like red meat, whole dairy, fast food and junk foods. Eat baked chicken instead of fried varieties, and add servings of fish to your meals twice a week. Choose foods without added sugars and sodium. Consume low- or no-fat dairy, and drink plenty of water daily. Engage in light to moderate exercise daily like walking, bike riding or group fitness. Consult your physician for dietary and exercise recommendations that are safe for your condition.
- American Heart Association: Obesity; Impact on Cardiovascular Disease
- Texas Heart Institute: Anatomy of the Cardiovascular System
- European Heart Journal: Body Fat and Cardiovascular Risk; Understanding the Obesity Paradox; K. H. Mak et al; February 27, 2009
- Weight-Control Information Network; Do You Know the Health Risks of Being Overweight?