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Framingham heart study finds strong link between overweight/obesity & risk for heart failure

While extreme obesity has been associated with heart failure, until now, data have been limited regarding the influence of overweight and lesser degrees of obesity on the risk of this disease. According to a new study supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), excess body weight is strongly and independently associated with an increased risk of heart failure. This risk, which increases continuously with increasing degrees of body weight, is 34 percent higher for overweight individuals and 104 percent higher for obese persons.

The large, community-based study investigated the relations between body mass index (BMI), a measure of excess weight for height, and the risk of heart failure in over 5,000 participants in the NHLBI's Framingham Heart Study, a landmark epidemiological study that began in 1948. Study findings will be published in the August 1, 2002 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

"Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States and it is increasing," said NHLBI Director Dr. Claude Lenfant. "While the death rate from heart disease has decreased by 60 percent over the last 40 years, the death rate from heart failure has not declined. This study suggests that obesity is an important risk factor for heart failure in both women and men. Promoting optimal body weight may help reduce the burden of heart failure we're seeing," he added.

An estimated 61 percent of U.S. adults aged 20-74 years are either overweight or obese. About 34 percent of these people are overweight and 27 percent or 50 million people are obese. Nearly 5 million people in the U.S. have heart failure, a condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood through the body.

"It was unclear from the scientific literature whether lesser degrees of obesity predispose an individual for heart failure, as most of the existing studies were limited to people who were severely obese (BMIs over 40)," said Dr. Satish
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Contact: NHLBI Communications Office
301-496-4236
NIH/National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
31-Jul-2002


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