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Even “Healthy” Obese People May be at Higher Risk of Heart Disease

Metabolically health obesity is characterized by the absence of metabolic abnormalities such as dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, hypertension and inflammation. However, it is unknown how long people with metabolically healthy obesity will stay healthy. A recent study looking to answer that question suggests that approximately half of the people with metabolically healthy obesity now will develop metabolic syndrome within 10 years.


Metabolic syndrome is characterized by a group of risk factors that raise the risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and other diseases. These risk factors include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and abdominal fat.


Participants in the study included 6,809 people who took part in the Mutli-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. The participants were followed for 12 years and had clinical evaluations every two years. Metabolically healthy obesity was defined as having a body mass index of more than 30 and two or fewer metabolic syndrome risk factors.


The researchers found that people with metabolically healthy obesity were not significantly more likely to get incident cardiovascular disease than those with normal weight, at least at baseline. However, nearly half of the participants developed metabolic syndrome during the study period, which increased their risk of cardiovascular disease when compared with participants with stable metabolically healthy obesity and with people of a normal weight.


Researchers from Wake Forest School of Medicine led the study. It was published in the May 2018 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.


Obesity has a far ranging negative effect on health.  Each year, obesity causes approximately 300,000 premature deaths in the United States. The negative health effects associated with obesity include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, metabolic syndrome and sleep apnea.


Improving eating habits and increasing physical activity play a vital role in preventing obesity.  It is recommended that we eat five to six servings of fruits and vegetables per day. It’s also recommended that we get at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity every day.

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