‘healthy’ obese people more likely to develop heart disease

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In a new study, researchers found adults who are obese but appear healthy are not at greater risk of heart attack, stroke, or cardiovascular death than healthy individuals of normal weight.

But these people are around 33% more likely to develop heart failure and the heart rhythm condition, atrial fibrillation.

The findings also indicate that heart failure risk was especially high in metabolically unhealthy individuals, regardless of their weight.

Obesity (BMI of more than 30kg/m²) affects almost all of the heart disease risk factors, particularly those related to metabolic syndrome including high blood pressure, poor blood sugar control or diabetes, and abnormal blood fats, which double the risk of heart attacks and stroke.

However, some people with obesity seem to be free of these metabolic abnormalities—estimates suggest as many as a third of obese people might be metabolically healthy.

Whether this so-called ‘metabolically health obesity’ is associated with a higher risk of heart disease has been debated for many years, and research so far has produced conflicting results.

In the study, the team followed nearly 3 million hospital patients (aged 18 and older) in France for at least 5 years.

The analysis found that people with metabolically healthy obesity had a 22% higher risk of having a new major heart event than people of normal weight with no metabolic abnormalities.

They also had a 34% increased risk of developing heart failure and 33% greater likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation—which can substantially impair quality of life and lead to stroke.

However, they did not have a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, or heart death than metabolically healthy people of normal weight.

Importantly, the analysis also showed that men face higher risks than women—compared to normal-weight men with no metabolic abnormalities, men with metabolically healthy obesity had a 61% higher risk of cardiovascular events; while women with metabolically healthy obesity were 50% less likely to suffer a heart attack than those of normal weight.

The team says on a population level, the idea that large numbers of people can be obese but metabolically healthy is simply untrue.

Encouraging weight loss in people with obesity, regardless of whether or not they are metabolically healthy, will help prevent atrial fibrillation and heart failure.

If you care about heart health, please read studies about this kidney problem linked to heart failure and findings of this stuff in blood could protect against heart failure, kidney damage.

For more information about heart disease prevention and treatment, please see recent studies about these 5 eating tips could keep you heart healthy and results showing that 10 heart tests your doctor may let you do, and what they mean.

The study was presented at the Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes. One author of the study is Dr. Laurent Fauchier.

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