Being obese for a decade 'puts people at greater risk of heart attack or stroke' - according to study

Women under the age of 50 have a greater risk for heart attack or stroke if they've lived with obesity for 10 years
-Credit: (Image: Chris Radburn/PA)


Early research has indicated a raised risk of heart attack or stroke for people under 50 who have been obese for at least a decade. Studies shared at Endo 2024, the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society held in Boston, USA, suggested that women under 50 with obesity for 10 years face up to 60% increased risk of developing these conditions.

In comparison, men below 65 show an enhanced risk of up to 57%, said Alexander Turchin, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School based in Boston. Turchin pointed out, however, that no such association was discovered in women over 50 and men older than 65.

Additionally, short-term obesity did not appear to increase the risk of heart disease or stroke, according to the findings. Turchin proposed that this implies "obesity at any given point in time does not 'seal' one's fate". He added: "If obesity is treated in a timely fashion, its complications can be prevented."

Despite the known risks linked with excess weight, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes, evidence remains unclear whether it matters how long a person has been obese, said Turchin. According to him, the findings highlight the importance of treating younger persons with obesity sooner to achieve better health outcomes.

Prof Turchin and his team, which also included researchers from American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, analysed data from the Nurses' Health Study (NHS) and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS), both based in the US. The study involved 109,259 women and 27,239 men who had an average age of 48.6 years and a body mass index (BMI) of 27 at the start of the study.

The researchers focused on those with a BMI greater than 25 considered obese at least once over a 10-year period, between 1990 and 1999. Their goal was to understand how a person's weight impacted their risk of heart attack or stroke over the next 20 years (2000-2020).

Over the course of the study period, 6,862 had a build-up of plaque in their arteries and 3,587 had type 2 diabetes while 65,101 people said they had a history of smoking. A follow-up in 2020 revealed there were 12,048 cardiovascular events such as heart attacks, stroke or related deaths across both cohorts.