Both overweight and obesity can increase the risk of developing coronary artery disease. Maintaining a healthy diet and a moderate weight can help decrease the chance of this and other heart conditions.

Coronary artery disease occurs when plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries. Plaque buildup narrows the arteries over time. Ultimately, this may block blood flow to the heart.

Individuals with obesity have an increased risk of coronary artery disease. In addition to heart disease, obesity can increase the risk of other conditions, such as type 2 diabetes.

This article examines the connection between coronary artery disease and obesity.

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Approximately 5% of adults in the United States have coronary artery disease.

Obesity can increase the chance of developing coronary artery disease. Maintaining a moderate weight can help reduce the risk of this and other heart conditions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly half of U.S. adults are currently living with obesity.

A 2021 statement from the American Heart Association reports that obesity promotes the buildup of plaque inside artery walls. It can also lead to high blood pressure. These factors can lead to the development of coronary artery disease in some instances.

Studies have also shown that more than 80% of people with coronary heart disease have either overweight or obesity.

Learn more about coronary artery disease.

In most cases, medical professionals use body mass index (BMI) to assess body weight. They typically diagnose an adult with obesity if their BMI is at least 30. A healthy BMI can range from 18.5 to 25.

The flaws of BMI

BMI is a calculation of a person’s body fat based on their height and weight. However, studies suggest it is a poor indicator of a person’s body fat percentage.

It can be misleading because the measure does not account for overall body composition. The BMI measurement overlooks bone density, muscle mass, and other considerations.

For additional information, talk with your doctor about other body fat assessment methods.

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Worldwide rates of obesity have increased in recent years. Over the past two decades, the percentage of U.S. adults with obesity has grown from 30.5% to 41.9%, according to the CDC.

Obesity can lead to a range of different health conditions. Some of these may include:

Treatments for obesity typically involve lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. In severe cases, bariatric surgery may also help.

Some individuals with obesity benefit from medications such as Orlistat, Ozempic, or Mounjaro. Maintaining a moderate weight can decrease the risk of secondary health concerns.

Learn more about obesity.

Excess body weight can increase the risk of heart conditions like coronary artery disease. Researchers have found that this risk increases among individuals who have lived with obesity for at least two decades.

Recent studies have also shown that, like body weight, body shape can affect the risk of coronary artery disease.

In one of these studies, from 2019, researchers examined the body shapes of nearly 3,000 women. They found that women with increased fat deposition around the torso area had a higher risk of heart disease.

Another study from 2020 of 9,460 individuals with obesity also showed that increased abdominal fat led to a greater risk of heart disease.

The causes of obesity can vary widely between individuals. Some common contributors to obesity may include:

  • insufficient exercise or movement
  • inadequate amounts of sleep
  • dietary factors
  • certain medications
  • a family history of obesity

In some cases, obesity may occur due to an underlying condition. For example, obesity is a common condition among people with Prader-Willi syndrome. This is a rare condition that causes physical, mental, and behavioral problems.

This genetic disorder develops because of damage to a particular chromosome. Most people with Prader-Willi syndrome experience increased appetite. This condition is the most common genetic reason for severe obesity.

Overweight and obesity can both increase the risk of coronary artery disease.

Other factors that may lead to this heart condition include:

  • family history of heart disease
  • diets high in processed foods
  • smoking
  • inadequate exercise

Damage to blood vessels in the heart can also increase the risk of coronary artery disease. Long-term inflammation may cause damage to these blood vessels. They may also become damaged as a result of conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure.

The following are some questions people often ask about obesity and coronary artery disease.

Does weight loss help coronary artery disease?

Achieving and maintaining a moderate weight can decrease the likelihood of developing coronary artery disease. In a 2019 study, researchers analyzed individuals with this condition as they followed a year-long exercise program.

By the end of the study, participants experienced decreased BMI scores. They saw improvements in the symptoms of conditions like type 2 diabetes, which may also increase the risk of coronary artery disease.

Does obesity cause plaque buildup in arteries?

Obesity often leads to increased rates of inflammation throughout the body. This heightened inflammation can cause or worsen plaque buildup in the coronary arteries.

Obesity can also affect hormonal regulation and immune system function. Changes to these bodily functions can increase the risk of plaque buildup.

What is the life expectancy of a person with coronary artery disease?

Developing coronary artery disease may reduce an individual’s life expectancy. However, each person with this condition may have a unique life expectancy.

Age, other health conditions, and additional factors can influence life expectancy. Individuals with coronary artery disease should consult with a medical professional to learn more.

Weight management resources

To discover more evidence-based information and resources for weight management, visit our dedicated hub.

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Obesity can increase a person’s risk of developing coronary artery disease. It can cause issues with the heart by causing plaque buildup in the arteries.

Obesity can cause other conditions, too, such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, which can also lead to coronary artery disease.

Maintaining a moderate weight can help reduce a person’s risk of coronary artery disease and other complications from obesity.

If a person has obesity, they can speak with a healthcare professional about lifestyle changes and interventions that can help them reduce weight and maintain a moderate weight.