Obesity increases heart attack risk by itself

According to Bloomberg News, “Obesity raises the chance of heart attack regardless of whether a person has the cluster of cardiovascular risk factors known as metabolic syndrome, according to a study that challenges previous beliefs.”

Metabolic syndrome, a condition that includes high blood pressure, high cholesterol and high blood sugar, accounts for about 12 percent to 26 percent of the risk of heart attack and heart disease due to being overweight and obese, researchers found. The rest of the increased risk is mostly due to a person’s body mass index.

The research, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggests that obesity increases an individual’s risk “of heart attack regardless of whether (or not) a person has … metabolic syndrome.”

MedPage Today reports that these “findings ‘add important new evidence to counter the common belief in the scientific and lay communities that the adverse health effects of overweight are generally inconsequential as long as the individual is metabolically healthy,’ wrote Chandra L. Jackson, PhD, MS, and Meir J. Stampfer, MD, DrPh, of the Harvard School of Public Health, in an accompanying editorial.”

The five conditions described below are metabolic risk factors. You can have any one of these risk factors by itself, but they tend to occur together. You must have at least three metabolic risk factors to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome.

  • A large waistline. This also is called abdominal obesity or “having an apple shape.” Excess fat in the stomach area is a greater risk factor for heart disease than excess fat in other parts of the body, such as on the hips.
  • A high triglyceride level (or you’re on medicine to treat high triglycerides). Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.
  • A low HDL cholesterol level (or you’re on medicine to treat low HDL cholesterol). HDL sometimes is called “good” cholesterol. This is because it helps remove cholesterol from your arteries. A low HDL cholesterol level raises your risk for heart disease.
  • High blood pressure (or you’re on medicine to treat high blood pressure). Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage your heart and lead to plaque buildup.
  • High fasting blood sugar (or you’re on medicine to treat high blood sugar). Mildly high blood sugar may be an early sign of diabetes.

You can read more about the different definitions of Metabolic Syndrome here.

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