Your weight – a risk to your circulation

In the modern world, where many jobs involve sitting for long hours and we all have seemingly unlimited access to tasty treats, it’s hardly surprising that the majority of adults are carrying a few extra kilos.

Being overweight or obese can impact our health in many different ways. Carrying too much fat – particularly around your mid-section - can put a strain on your body and your heart, and make you more prone to conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure), type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

But did you know being overweight can also affect your circulation?

Scale of the problem

According to government data, a whopping 67% of the adult population in Australia are at an unhealthy weight. But how do you know if you’re overweight for your height?

To measure whether a person is obese, doctors often use BMI (Body Mass Index measurement) which involves dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by their height in metres squared. BMI = Weight (Kg)/Height2 (m2). There are many online calculators that can help you work out your own BMI.

BMI under 18.5: underweight

BMI between 18.5 – 24.9: healthy weight

BMI between 25.0 – 29.9: overweight

BMI 30.0 and above: obese

While BMI is a useful measurement for adults 18 and above, it isn't suitable for certain groups such as pregnant ladies, body builders and high performance athletes.

Other measurements

BMI is a useful measure, but isn’t effective for all body types – for example, if you carry a lot of muscle, a teenager or if you are pregnant. It also can’t tell us if we’re carrying too much fat around our abdomen, which can be dangerous to our health.

For this reason, it’s also worth measuring your waist to see whether you fall into healthy measurements.

According to Heart Foundation Australia you are at risk for health problems such as heart disease and diabetes if your waist measures 80 cm (31.5 inches) or more for a woman or 94 cm (37 inches) or more for a man.

Check out this handy tool to measure your BMI and waist to identify your health risk.

How fat affects our health

If we eat more calories than we burn, our body stores the extra calories as fat. 

Some fat in our system is essential for normal bodily function. This type of fat is known as ‘essential fat.’ The second type of fat, which we store under our skin – the fat that makes us look overweight – is known as ‘subcutaneous fat.’

There's also a third type of fat known as ‘visceral fat.’ This is stored by the body around the organs and within the abdomen and is by far the most dangerous to our health. Visceral fat is linked to serious conditions such as heart disease and stroke.

While a detailed (and often expensive) scan is the only completely accurate way to find out your level of visceral fat, measuring your waist should give you a good idea of whether you’re carrying too much of the bad stuff.


How does being heavy affect your circulation?

If your body is larger, the heart has to work hard to pump blood to your extremities. This increase in heart effort can lead to high blood pressure.

Being obese may also cause ‘insulin resistance’ meaning the body is less adept in coping with sugars in the blood. This can cause diabetes which, in turn, can have a negative effect on your circulation.

If you are obese, you are more likely to suffer from high cholesterol. This fatty substance in the blood can cause veins and capillaries to thicken, making it harder for the blood to pass through.

Carrying too much visceral fat can cause inflammation, including in the venous system, making it harder for blood to flow freely through your veins.

Finally, the combination of high blood pressure, cholesterol and excess blood sugar and body fat all impacts the blood vessels. Vessels may narrow, making it harder for blood to pass through, and may also lose elasticity, becoming harder. This can lead to poor circulation, medically diagnosed by your GP as Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD).

Revitive is a registered medical device for people with Peripheral Arterial Disease affecting blood flow in the legs.

Symptoms of poor circulation

Poor circulation means that the blood is unable to deliver essential nutrients to the muscles and organs in your body, meaning they function less effectively. If you have poor circulation you may experience symptoms such as tingling sensations or loss of feeling in the limbs; or suffer from muscle cramps. These symptoms are most common in the legs and arms.

But it is also possible to have poor circulation without any noticeable symptoms initially.


Losing fat

If you are carrying too much fat, particularly visceral fat, it’s important to take action in order to reduce your risk of disease and improve bodily functions such as your circulation. Reducing your calorie intake and exercising more often should help your body to start burning off its excess stores. Speak to your GP or a health professional for advice before starting a new diet or exercise programme.

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