Obesity in middle age raises heart disease, diabetes risk in older age

Obesity in middle age even without established cardiovascular disease risk factors such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol levels greatly increases risk of hospitalization for and death from heart disease and diabetes in older age, according to a study in the Jan. 11 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Lijing Yan, assistant professor of preventive medicine, and colleagues at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine assessed the relationship of body mass index (BMI) earlier in life with hospitalization for and death from cardiovascular disease and diabetes in older age (65 years and older). BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight.

Study participants were classified according to low, moderate, intermediate and high risk, based on blood pressure, treatment for hypertension, total cholesterol level, cigarette smoking and weight.

Of the 17,640 participants who had survived to age 65 and older, those who were overweight, and particularly those who were obese earlier in life, had significantly higher risks of hospitalizations for and death from heart disease and diabetes in older age compared with persons of normal weight with similar other cardiovascular risk factors at the beginning of the study.

Elevated risk was present for individuals both with and without other major cardiovascular risk factors, such as smoking in young adulthood and middle age.

In general, there was a consistent relationship in both men and women for hospitalization for and death from coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease and diabetes in older age.

Study participants were men and women aged 31 through 64 years from the Chicago Heart Association Detection Project in Industry who were free of coronary heart disease, diabetes or major heart rhythm abnormalities at the beginning of the study in 1967.

The exceptionally long follow-up of the CHA study offered the researchers a rare opportunity to

Contact: Elizabeth Crown
Northwestern University

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