According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and prevention, obesity has become an epidemic in the U.S. The dangers of obesity have traditionally been lumped in with metabolic syndrome, a group of health issues that include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes in addition to obesity. Though obesity is often viewed as a side-effect of metabolic syndrome, doctors have now discovered that obesity on its own is enough to increase the risks of heart disease and heart attack.
A new study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, shows that being overweight or obese are themselves risk factors for heart issues. Researchers believe these new findings could streamline he process of determining a patient's heart disease and heart attack risk factors simply by using their weight.
Researchers from Copenhagen University Hospital looked at over 71,000 people enrolled in a general population study. Of the 2,415 people found to have heart disease or have had a heart attack, it was found that being overweight or obese was a risk factor for their heart problems. Moreover, the doctors could find no difference in risk between obese patients who had metabolic syndrome and those who did not.
"These findings suggest that overweight and obesity are risk factors for MI and IHD regardless of the presence or absence of metabolic syndrome and that metabolic syndrome is no more valuable than BMI (body mass index) in identifying individuals at risk," wrote the study's authors, Drs. Børge Nordestgaard and Mette Thomsen.
In a commentary accompanying the study, Dr. Chandra Jackson and Dr. Meir Stampfer of the Harvard School of Public Health declared that this study contradicts popular claims that it is possible to be both obese and not at risk for heart disease as long as a person is healthy.
"The findings of Thomsen and Nordestgaard add important new evidence to counter the common belief in the scientific and lay communities that the adverse health effects of overweight are generally inconsequential as long as the individual is metabolically healthy," wrote Jackson and Stampfer. "In contrast, this study adds further evidence for the increased risks associated with overweight, even among those who might be considered metabolically healthy. These results also underscore the importance of focusing on weight gain prevention due to the difficulty in achieving and maintaining weight loss to reverse being overweight or obese."