Even Slightly Overweight People at ‘Significantly’ Higher Risk of Heart Failure
People who are as little as four to eight pounds overweight "significantly increase their risk of heart failure," according to new study published in today's New England Journal of Medicine, the Boston Globe reports (Smith, Boston Globe, 8/1). While researchers have "long known" that obesity increases a person's chance of heart failure, the new finding shows that being "even slightly overweight" is a risk factor (Maugh, Los Angeles Times, 8/1). As part of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's Framingham Heart Study, researchers at Boston University's School of Medicine examined 14 years of health data on 5,881 individuals with an average age of 55 (Lasalandra, Boston Herald, 8/1). The study found that for each increase of one in a person's body mass index, which measures obesity based on height and weight, the risk of heart failure increased 7% for women and 5% for men. A body mass index increase of one is equivalent to gaining four to eight pounds depending on a person's height (Boston Globe, 8/1). Among participants in the study, overweight women had a 50% greater chance of heart failure and men had a 20% greater chance than non-overweight individuals. Obese people of both sexes increased their risk of heart failure by almost 100% (Okie, Washington Post, 8/1). In addition, researchers concluded that "being overweight alone" is responsible for 11% of cases of heart failure in men and 14% of cases in women (Los Angeles Times, 8/1).
The new finding "add[s] heart failure to the long list of diseases and conditions to which obesity has been linked," including hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes and heart attack, the Washington Post reports (Washington Post, 8/1). Dr. Daniel Levy, one of the study's authors, said, "The results of this study are a wake-up call to a public health problem that we may be addressing 10 to 50 years from now when these obese youngsters become old enough to be at risk of heart failure" (Los Angeles Times, 8/1). Dr. Ramachandran Vasan, another author, added that while it is clear that obesity increases heart failure, "the mechanism ... need[s] further investigation," (Nano, AP/South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 7/31). The study abstract is available at online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.