We’ve always known that carrying extra body fat is unhealthy and can lead to serious health problems like diabetes, high blood pressure and some cancers. However, until recently, it was believed that weight was not a factor on cardiovascular health unless combined with the risk factors of metabolic syndrome. A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that metabolic syndrome—which includes high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar—is only responsible for between 12 to 26 percent of the risk for cardiovascular disease in obese people.
The study, headed up by lead author Borge Nordestgaard of Copenhagen University Hospital studied 71,527 people and found that overweight people were 38 percent more likely to be at risk for a heart attack and obese people had more than double the risk of heart attack than those of a normal weight. While metabolic syndrome did raise the risk of heart attack—and was present in 62 percent of obese participants—the study concluded that the increased risks were due to the excess weight.
So, what does this mean for evaluating heart attack risks?
Well, if the study’s findings are to be believed, there’s good and bad news. The good news is that doctors might no longer need to test for the conditions of metabolic syndrome to determine whether a patient is at risk for a heart attack—they could merely take their Body Mass Index. However, having an awareness and management strategy for your high blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar is important in and of itself, regardless of your weight, so testing for metabolic syndrome is still important. The bad news? Well, for starters, a lot more people may be unknowingly at risk for having a heart attack or developing heart disease.
The Bottom Line
What it really comes down to is this: being overweight or obese is not good for your body. Whether or not the conclusions of the study go on to carry any significance in the medical community is secondary to this undeniable truth. If you’re concerned about your weight, make an appointment to talk to your doctor about your risk factors and make a plan for improving your health.