Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease

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Cardiologists and other specialists at UT Southwestern Medical Center understand the effects of obesity on heart health. Using the latest treatment options, including lifestyle changes, medications, and weight loss surgery, we help patients stay healthy and improve their quality of life.

Advanced Care for People with Obesity and Heart Disease

Obesity is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. Current research shows that about one in three Americans is obese and that the condition can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, stroke, cancer, and many other potentially life-threatening illnesses.

At UT Southwestern, our cardiologists, surgeons, and their teams combine compassionate care with the latest evidence-based treatment options for people with obesity. We work with patients on developing and maintaining healthy lifestyle habits, and we offer therapeutic solutions for weight loss and heart disease prevention. Learn more about our Preventive Cardiology services.

Causes and Risk Factors

People with obesity are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease even without other risk factors. The risk of developing heart disease goes up with these conditions:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension): Because it damages blood vessels, high blood pressure forces the heart to beat harder, increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases.
  • Abnormal blood lipid levels: People with obesity might also have high levels of LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) and triglycerides, along with low levels of HDL (the “good” cholesterol). This pattern of lipid levels increases the risk of heart disease.
  • High blood glucose (sugar) levels: Over time, high blood levels of glucose can lead to Type 2 diabetes, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease.
  • Enlarged waist size: In general, men having excess stomach fat contributing to a waist measurement of more than 40 inches and women having more than 35 inches is considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.


At UT Southwestern, our specialists can lower the risk of heart disease for people with obesity. Our treatment options include:

  • Support and resources for lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, and quitting smoking
  • Medications to reduce blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and blood glucose levels
  • Medications for weight loss
  • Low-dose aspirin in some cases
  • Bariatric surgery to lose weight

Patients receive a comprehensive assessment of their weight, risk factors, and strategies to reduce the weight or improve weight wellness. This includes metrics of their weight and lab values. When needed, we will order imaging tests, too.

We work closely with UT Southwestern’s Weight Wellness Center, led by Dr. Jaime Almandoz, to coordinate care for patients. We also offer nutrition support and exercise counseling.

Clinical Trials

As one of the nation’s top academic medical centers, UT Southwestern offers a wide range of clinical trials aimed at improving the outcomes of patients with obesity and many types of cardiovascular disease. 

Clinical trials often give patients access to leading-edge treatments that are not yet widely available. Eligible patients who choose to participate in one of UT Southwestern’s clinical trials can receive treatments years before they are available to the public.