As populations the world over consume increasing quantities of high-sugar, high-fat foods, the number of overweight adults has reached more than 1 billion globally.
In line with this rise in poor quality diets, the prevalence of stroke and heart disease has escalated, with weight gain becoming a major contributing factor in these conditions.
Strokes and heart disease can be hereditary or due to natural factors, but diet and lifestyle play a large role in the majority of cases, and in the prevention thereof. A number of risk factors associated with these conditions are often the result of weight gain.
– High cholesterol
– High blood pressure
Obesity goes hand in hand with type-2 diabetes, which increases the likelihood of cardiac disease and stroke. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that, worldwide, at least 400 million adults are obese, with the rate of severe obesity rising faster in the USA than the overall rate of obesity (a BMI over 35 is considered severely obese, whereas 30-35 is considered obese).
As of 1997, the WHO recognized obesity as a global epidemic.
- Diet: Poor diet accounts for the global rise in numerous complaints, from minor health problems to life threatening diseases. Obesity, resulting from high-fat, high-sugar diets, increases the risk of type-2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, certain cancers and osteoarthritis, to name some of the more severe conditions on the list.
A nutrient-poor diet can also contribute to lower-risk conditions such as infertility, skin complaints and depression.
Type-2 diabetes is a risk factor for stroke. Although diabetes itself can be treated, it tends to go hand in hand with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both of which significantly increase the risk of stroke.
- Lifestyle: Today’s average lifestyle is not conducive to cardiovascular health. The combination of urbanization, busier lives and higher incomes stacks the odds firmly against our health:
- Longer desk hours and easy transport decrease physical exercise
- Busy lifestyles increase consumption of convenience foods, which tend to be high in saturated fats
- Office-bound workers snack on high-sugar foods instead of nutritious meals
- A sedentary lifestyle is aided by the TV and internet culture, further decreasing exercise and outdoor time
All these factors contribute to weight gain and consequently to a higher risk of type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiac disease and stroke.
- Smoking: The inhalation of nicotine and carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke puts immediate strain on the heart and blood vessels through increased blood pressure, which increases the likelihood of a stroke or heart attack. Over time, it causes narrowing of the blood vessels, which is a further risk factor for heart attacks.
A smoker is almost twice as likely as a non-smoker to suffer cardiac arrest.
It should now be very clear that an overall improvement in lifestyle can dramatically reduce the risk of cardiac disease and stroke.
Stopping smoking and eating a healthy diet are the first steps. Fresh produce and whole grains should comprise a significant portion of the diet, with high-fat and sugary foods being reduced to a minimum.
This, combined with some form of daily exercise, will pave the way to a healthier lifestyle and body.