Your weight as a teenager can be a good measure of how well your heart will be doing in middle age, according to a recent study.
The research found that in men with a BMI of 20 and over, the risk of heart failure increased by 16% with every BMI unit, after adjustments for factors that could affect the findings, such as age, year of enlistment into the Swedish armed forces, other diseases, parental education, blood pressure, IQ, muscle strength and fitness.
Annika Rosengren of the University of Gothenburg, who led the research, said, “Although most studies define a normal weight as having a BMI between 18.5 and 25, this is probably not an appropriate definition in the young, most of whom are naturally thin. This may be why we see an increase in the risk of heart failure starting at a fairly low BMI level. However, it was surprising to see the very steep increase in risk with increasing body weight above a BMI of 20.”
Rosengren noted, “Given the global trend for growing numbers of teenagers to be overweight and obese, our findings suggest that heart failure, which in this study occurred at the relatively early average age of about 47 may well become a major threat to health worldwide. This serves to underline the urgent need for action worldwide to curb the obesity epidemic.”
She added that action needs to be taken by governments as well as by individuals, for instance by creating an environment that does not promote overweight and obesity, and that encourages people not to be sedentary and not to eat more than they need. “This is more important than hassling people into dieting whatever shape they are. Once established, overweight and obesity is much harder to tackle.”
The researchers point out that limitations to the study include the fact that their findings are only applicable to men and that, overall, women have a lower risk of heart failure than men; nor did they have any information on weight gain after the men were conscripted at 18, so that a slightly greater weight at 18, might be an indicator of an increased risk of subsequently becoming overweight or obese, which in itself, would be a risk factor for heart failure. However, the strength of the study is its large size, with over 1.6 million participants.
The study is published in the European Heart Journal.
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