Metabolically healthy women have same risk for cardiovascular disease regardless of BMI

Once the standard tool for assessing health, a BMI calculation may not paint a clear picture of a person's risk for certain diseases or conditions.

Last month, research in the journal Science revealed that BMI isn't an accurate assessment of body fat, and a new study suggests that it may also fail to appropriately represent cardiovascular health.

The study

Researchers from Denmark presented their findings at the ESC Congress last week, recapping their study that followed 261,489 women. All of the women had given birth during 2004-2009, and none had prior history of cardiovascular disease. The women were separated into four categories based on pre-pregnancy BMI, and they were followed for an average of five years after childbirth.

Results showed that being overweight but metabolically healthy wasn't associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular-related problems - at least in the short term - when compared with normal-weight, metabolically healthy women.

Study author Dr. Michelle Schmiegelow, elaborated:

Being overweight but free of metabolic disorders does not seem to be associated with an increased risk in young women in the short term. However, development of metabolic disorders, for which obesity is a major determinant, is associated with a marked increase in cardiovascular risk, especially in overweight women even in the short term.

Metabolic health

Essentially, the study suggests that obese women have a short window of time during which they can lose enough weight to avoid developing metabolic disorder, but the window tends to close quickly.

For women who were metabolically unhealthy in the study, the risk of heart attack increased seven-fold, while the risk of stroke increased four-fold.

"Our results indicate that obesity might not be all bad if the overweight woman has not developed any hypertensive disorders, disorders in glucose-metabolism or elevated cholesterol levels," Schmeigelow explained. "But because obesity markedly increases the risk of developing these metabolic disorders, these women most likely have a window of opportunity to lose weight and change their prognosis."

Source: European Society of Cardiology

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