Heart Failure Risk Increasing

Four Pounds Can Make a Difference

The numbers are startling.

Nearly four out of 10 Americans will be obese within five years if people keep packing on pounds at the current rate.

Currently, about 31%, or about 59 million people, are obese, which is defined as roughly 30 or more pounds over a healthy weight. Almost 65% are either obese or overweight, according to government statistics.

The average American has gained eight pounds in the past 10 years, in spite of research proving that people could live longer and healthier at an ideal body weight.  And, half this “average American” weight gain, or a mere four pounds, could be enough to significantly increase the risk of heart failure.

Cardiologists will be first to acknowledge that obesity increases the risk of death from heart disease. Doctors have long known that obesity contributes to heart failure — specifically an enlargement and thickening of the left ventricle, the heart’s main pumping chamber. But we were never sure how much of the added risk stems from obesity, or its impact on blood pressure and other risk factors.

Now, a new study shows that being slightly overweight — as little as a few pounds over — can increase that risk. It’s the first major study to probe the progressive relationship between weight gain and heart failure.

In the New England Journal of Medicine, a study involving nearly 6,000 people followed for over 14 years by the Boston University School of Medicine, demonstrated that being even moderately overweight is a causative factor of congestive heart failure in women.  In other words, many cases of heart failure can be attributed to obesity alone.

People in this study were not extremely obese. Even a little excess weight, the study found, can raise the risk of congestive heart failure.

In fact, “after adjustment for established risk factors, the risk of heart failure is increased by 5% for men and 7% for women for each increase of 1 in Body Mass Index (BMI),” says the journal report.

Because patients who qualify for bariatric surgery have a BMI that is at least 15 points above a “healthy weight,” their risk for heart failure is increased by at least 100%.

We are very good at treating all consequences of obesity — high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes. But, when it comes to treating obesity itself, we often throw up our hands.  That just doesn’t make sense.

Minimally invasive weight-loss surgery has proven to be successful with thousands of obese patients. At The N.E.W Program, when we get patient’s weight down, we discover their diabetes improves, their cholesterol is lower, their blood pressure looks better.

Heart failure is yet another bad medical condition to have. And, for people with severe obesity or worse, we know that bariatric surgery is certainly a successful method to eliminate this grim prognosis.

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