Very obese people have been shown to face a much higher risk
for heart failure than people of normal weight. With more
and more Americans considered overweight or obese, the authors
of a recent study in The New England Journal of Medicine
wanted to determine if being overweight to a lesser degree
also puts a person at a greater risk for heart failure.
Using body-mass index (BMI) to classify a person's weight,
almost 6,000 people were divided into one of three categories:
normal weight, overweight, or obese. Incidence of heart failure
was compared among the groups, who averaged 55 years old.
women were 50% more likely to experience heart failure than
women of normal weight, based on an average of 14 years of
follow-up. Obese women and men were approximately twice as
likely to have heart failure. The risk for heart failure rose
consistently for both genders as BMI increased, regardless
of other factors like smoking, alcohol consumption, or age.
To figure out your BMI, multiply your weight (in lbs.) by
703, then divide twice by your height (in inches). Normal
weight is considered a BMI of 18.5 to 25; "overweight," 25
to 30; and over 30 is considered "obese."
This measure of "healthy" weight has been criticized, however,
as some people who work out regularly and are dense with muscle
may be healthy despite a high BMI.
Kenchaiah S, Evans JC, Levy D, et al. Obesity and the risk
of heart failure. The New England Journal of Medicine 2002:347(5),
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