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Excess Weight Linked to Larger Plaques

Being overweight is associated with having larger plaques in the arteries leading to the heart and a marked increase and progression of these arterial plaques that cause heart attacks, even if a person does not have the risk factors that predict increased risk for diabetes and heart attacks (Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases, November 16, 2018).

This study used coronary calcium scores of 1,585 healthy people to measure the size of plaques in the arteries leading to their hearts at baseline and five years later. The participants were classified according to:
• the number of Metabolic Syndrome risk factors (listed below) they had, and
• whether they were overweight, defined as Body Mass Index (BMI) of greater than 24.9 kg/M2, measured by electron beam tomography.

The coronary calcium scores taken after five years showed that the people who were overweight had much larger plaques in their arteries and a much greater progressive enlargement of these plaques than those who were of normal weight, even if they had no other risk factors for Metabolic Syndrome (also known as syndrome X, pre-diabetes or early diabetes). This is one of the most important studies ever to show that being overweight increases risk for diseases and a shortened lifespan, even if the other tests doctors do show no abnormalities whatever.

Metabolic Syndrome
Just about every respected scientist agrees that Metabolic Syndrome, in which blood sugar levels rise too high after meals, increases risk for diabetes, heart attacks, cancers and a shortened lifespan. The National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Adult Treatment Panel III (Dis Model Mech, May-June, 2009;2(5-6):231–237) defines the following risk factors for Metabolic Syndrome:
• waist circumference over 40 inches (men) or 35 inches (women)
• blood pressure over 130/85 mm Hg
• fasting triglyceride (TG) level over 150 mg/dl
• fasting high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol level less than 40 mg/dl (men) and 50 mg/dl (women)
• fasting blood sugar over 100 mg/dl
See The Hidden Epidemic of Early Diabetes

How Extra Fat Harms
Having extra fat in cells causes insulin resistance, in which cells stop responding to insulin, so that sugar remains in the bloodstream. High blood sugar levels cause sugar to stick to the outer membranes of all types of cells and destroy them. This cell destruction can:
• damage the inner walls of arteries to form plaques that can break off and cause heart attacks
• damage the DNA of cells to cause cancers
• damage your bones to cause osteoporosis
• damage your muscles to cause muscle atrophy
• shorten your telomeres, which is associated with premature aging
• lead to blindness, deafness, impotence, nerve damage and all of the other frightening consequences of diabetes

My Recommendations
Whether or not you are trying to lose weight, I recommend that you follow a high-plant diet that includes a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans and other seeds. For weight loss:
• Avoid sugar added foods, all sugared drinks including fruit juices, red meat, processed meats and fried foods
• Restrict all refined carbohydrates, particularly all foods made from flour: bread, pasta, pretzels, bagels, crackers, cookies and so forth
• Try to exercise at least 30 minutes every day
• Maintain a healthful sleep pattern; sleep loss is associated with weight gain (Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care, Jul 2011;14(4):402–412).

I recommend the various forms of intermittent fasting to lose excess fat and to maintain your desired weight. Perhaps the easiest type of intermittent fasting is to avoid eating anything from 6:00 PM to the next morning. Caution:Intermittent fasting is not for everyone. Certain conditions can be complicated or worsened by fasting or modified fasting programs. Please check with your doctor if you are diabetic, have low blood pressure, take medications, are underweight, have eating disorders, or are pregnant, trying to become pregnant or breast-feeding.

November 25th, 2018
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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