Heavy Duty

Published January 1, 2003

Obesity has certainly been in the news lately, with reports from everywhere proving Americans are getting fatter and fatter. Obesity is a known risk factor for many medical disorders, including hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and orthopedic problems.

The relationship between obesity and the development of heart failure, however, has not been entirely clear. Doctors have suspected overweight patients have an increased risk of developing heart failure, but most believed the heart failure resulted from the diabetes, high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease associated with obesity.

Now, a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows obesity itself can lead to heart failure.

The research shows even excess body weight in people who are not considered obese substantially increases the risk of heart failure.

The investigators followed 5,881 individuals enrolled in the Framingham Heart Study, who were either obese or merely overweight, for an average of 14 years. After adjusting for other risk factors for heart failure, those who were merely overweight had a risk 34 percent greater than in non-overweight individuals. Those who were obese had a incredible 104 percent increase in risk.

The bottom line: Even if you’re entirely healthy otherwise, being obese or merely overweight still places you at risk of developing heart failure. This new finding should give both doctors and patients even more reason to encourage weight loss.

IT’S YOUR HEALTH is written by Conrad Meier, senior fellow in health policy at The Heartland Institute. This program is produced as a public service by Radio America. Meier passed away unexpectedly on March 18, 2005.