A new study debunks what many people call “the obesity paradox.” This was a finding that supposedly showed people who have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease live longer if they are overweight or obese at the time of diagnosis.
It shouldn’t come as a big surprise that researchers have debunked this counterintuitive finding. In fact, new research shows that people who are obese live shorter lives. They also spend a longer part of their life with cardiovascular disease, according to a Northwestern Medicine study. The paper appears in JAMA Cardiology.
“The obesity paradox caused a lot of confusion and potential damage because we know there are cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular risks associated with obesity,” said Dr. Sadiya Khan, an assistant professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine cardiologist.
“I get a lot of patients who ask, ‘Why do I need to lose weight, if research says I’m going to live longer?’’’ Khan said in a news release. “I tell them losing weight doesn’t just reduce the risk of developing heart disease, but other diseases like cancer. Our data show you will live longer and healthier at a normal weight.”
If you have obesity – when your body mass index ranges between 30 and 39.9 – your weight can take a major toll on your health and your expected lifespan.
Here are four ways, according to the study, that being overweight affects your heart health:
- The likelihood of having a stroke, heart attack, heart failure or cardiovascular death in overweight middle-aged men 40 to 59 years old was 21 percent higher than in normal weight men. The odds were 32 percent higher in overweight women than normal weight women.
- The likelihood of having a stroke, heart attack, heart failure or cardiovascular death in obese middle-aged men 40 to 59 years old was 67 percent higher than in normal weight men. The odds were 85 percent higher in obese women than normal weight women.
- Normal weight middle-aged men also lived 1.9 years longer than obese men and six years longer than morbidly obese. Normal weight men had similar longevity to overweight men.
- Normal weight middle-aged women lived 1.4 years longer than overweight women, 3.4 years longer than obese women and six years longer than morbidly obese women.
“A healthy weight promotes healthy longevity or longer healthspan in addition to lifespan, so that greater years lived are also healthier years lived,” Khan said. “It’s about having a much better quality of life.”
If you’re having trouble losing weight, consider the benefits of a medically-supervised weight loss program. Lose weight safely under medical supervision while learning how to choose healthy foods that will keep excess weight from coming back.