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Extra weight ‘doesn't always mean heart woes’

New York, September 14, 2011

Carrying extra weight doesn't necessarily mean your heart is ailing, according to a Greek study that adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that overweight people aren't always unhealthy.

The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that fewer than 10 per cent of healthy obese people in their 50s and 60s without risk factors for heart disease went on to develop heart failure over six years.

By contrast, 16 percent of their slimmer peers, also without the suite of risk factors known as metabolic syndrome, ended up with the debilitating condition.

"Being normal weight does not necessarily mean we are healthy," said Christina Voulgari, at Athens University Medical School, who led the study.

Voulgari and her colleagues followed 550 men and women, a quarter of who were obese. Participants averaged about 55 years old.

More than two-thirds of the obese individuals harbored risk factors for heart and blood vessel disease, such as high fat levels in the blood, low "good" cholesterol, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and a large waistline -- commonly referred to as "metabolic syndrome."

By comparison, only a little more than one third of normal-weight individuals did.

Whether or not a person was obese had little impact, though, on his or her risk of heart failure, in which the heart muscle weakens and cannot supply enough oxygen-rich blood to the body.

The most common cause of heart failure is clogged vessels supplying inadequate blood to the heart.

But metabolic syndrome made a big difference in who experienced heart failure, even after accounting for smoking, physical activity and other factors tied to heart disease.

For instance, 63 per cent of normal-weight people with metabolic syndrome developed heart failure, compared with 16 per cent of those without the syndrome.

As it turned out, Voulgari said, heavy people actually had fewer cases of heart failure than their normal-weight and overweight peers.

Among obese participants with metabolic syndrome, 54 per cent developed the problem, whereas only nine per cent of those without metabolic syndrome did.

Voulgari said her study didn't mean people without metabolic syndrome should eat fast food without worrying about the consequences -- instead, everybody should aim for a healthier lifestyle.

"We should try to focus more on exercise, follow the 10,000-steps-daily rule, follow a healthier lifestyle and not smoke to say in shape," she said.

Eating a Mediterranean diet, which has been tied to heart benefits, is also a good idea. The diet includes olive oil and plenty of fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish and moderate amounts of red wine. – Reuters




Tags: heart | New York | Overweight | Extra weight | Greek study |

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