New research has found that being overweight or obese during adulthood increases the risk of cardiac death if the weight elevated in early adulthood. The study was conducted on over 72,000 women and was published in JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology.
Lead study author, Dr. Stephanie Chiuve, said, “We found that it is important to maintain a healthy weight throughout adulthood as a way to minimize the risk of sudden cardiac death.” The impact of sudden cardiac death does not completely erase with weight loss later in life.
The participants provided information on height and weight, which they had to recall from when they were 18. Questionnaires were also filled out every two years.
The study analyzed the relationship between body mass index (BMI), weight gain and the risk of sudden cardiac death. Over the 32-year study period 445 cases of sudden cardiac death occurred, 1,286 cases of fatal coronary heart disease were seen and there were 2,272 non-fatal heart attacks.
Women with a higher BMI in adulthood were at a higher risk of sudden cardiac death. Overweight and obese women were 1.5 and two times more likely to succumb to sudden cardiac death over the course of two years, compared to healthy BMI women.
Additional findings revealed that even if the woman did not have a high BMI at 18, becoming overweight in adulthood still increased the risk of sudden cardiac death.
Dr. Chiuve added, “Nearly three-quarters of all sudden cardiac deaths occur in patients not considered to be high-risk based on current guidelines. We must seek broader prevention strategies to reduce the burden of sudden cardiac death in the general population.”
Editor-in-chief at JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology, David J. Wilber, M.D., added, “This study adds to a growing body of evidence that the adverse effects of obesity on cardiac rhythm, in this case, sudden death risk, begin in early adulthood. It underscores the need for earlier identification and treatment of high risk individuals.”
Although the research is observational and cannot determine cause and effect, it reaffirms the importance of maintaining a healthy weight throughout your life in order to reduce negative health outcomes.