In a new study, researchers found more Australians and Americans are dying from heart disease attributable to excess weight, particularly in younger people.
They found that there is an accelerating rate of increase in heart disease mortality in ages 35-74 years related to overweight and obesity in Australia and the US.
As at 2016 in Australia and 2017 in the US, the rate was rising at approximately 3% per annum, following an earlier decline of over two percent per annum in Australia and a period of stagnation in the US.
The findings suggest this increase has continued in subsequent years.
The recent rise has been more rapid in younger age groups within the 35-74 bracket, who have experienced relatively high levels of overweight and obesity since childhood.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Melbourne.
In the study, the team used a novel approach of analyzing all the causes reported on death certificates (Multiple Cause of Death data), obtained for deaths in Australia between 2006-16 and in the US between 2000-17, to identify trends in overweight and obesity-related cardiovascular disease mortality.
The researchers identified these deaths as any cardiovascular disease reported on a death certificate with obesity or any other cause strongly associated with overweight and obesity: diabetes, chronic kidney disease, lipidemias, or hypertensive heart disease.
Comprising 40% of Australian and 50% of US premature cardiovascular disease mortality, the researchers found overweight and obesity-related mortality rates were increasing faster than other forms of cardiovascular disease mortality.
The US and Australia are the first- and second-ranked high-income countries respectively for adult obesity prevalence.
In both countries, obesity affects about one-third of the adult population and has increased rapidly in recent decades.
The team says there is a large increase in obesity-related mortality among younger age groups who have had high levels of overweight and obesity since childhood.
There may well be a significant adverse impact on mortality in the coming years when these cohorts reach older ages where cardiovascular disease mortality is more common.
Employment, housing, transport, food security, social and economic stress all play a role in this growing health crisis.
Any efforts to reduce overweight and obesity-related mortality will need to address these factors.
Without concerted efforts to reduce overweight and obesity, the team believes that life expectancy in Australia and the US would likely make only modest future gains at best.
One author of the study is Dr. Tim Adair.
The study is published in BMC Medicine.
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