Weight Loss & Heart Disease: How a New Study is Changing What We Thought We Knew

Americans love to procrastinate.  We will exercise after this episode, we’ll go to sleep when after this chapter, and our diets ALWAYS start on Monday.

Losing weight always seems to be on our list of things to do.

We can all relate to owning that pair of “goal jeans”.

Approximately 2/3 of American adults are overweight or obese. 

Obesity is defined as a disorder involving excessive body fat that increases the risk of health problems. In 2018, 49% of American adults reported that they would like to lose weight.  This same study found that the higher a person’s starting weight, the more likely they are to want to lose weight.

  

How do you know if you’re in the danger zone?

A good place to start is by looking at your BMI (Body Mass Index).

Click here to try out the CDC’s BMI Calculator!

  • BMI under 18.5: underweight
  • BMI 18.5-<25: normal
  • BMI 25-<30: overweight
  • BMI 30+: obese

Obesity is divided into three categories:

  • Class 1: BMI 30-<35
  • Class 2: BMI 35-<40
  • Class 3: BMI 40+. Class 3 obesity is sometimes referred to “extreme” or “severe” obesity.

Obesity or being overweight increases the risk of:

  • All causes of death (mortality)
  • High blood pressure (Hypertension)
  • High LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high levels of triglycerides
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis (a breakdown of cartilage and bone within a joint)
  • Sleep apnea and breathing problems
  • some cancers (endometrial, breast, colon, kidney, gallbladder, and liver)
  • Low quality of life
  • Mental illness such as clinical depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders
  • Body pain and difficulty with physical functioning

It seems the answer to a longer healthier life is weight loss, right?

A new study published in the British Medical Journal from Tongji Medical College in China explored the association between weight changes across adulthood and mortality.

Researchers studied data from 36,051 American adults age 40 and older that included interviews, physical examinations, and blood samples to gauge the overall health of US citizens.

Participants weight was measured and they also reported their weight from 10 years earlier and from when they were 25 years old.

The study found that stable obesity across adulthood and weight gain from young to middle adulthood was associated with increased risks of all cause and heart disease mortality, as well as weight loss in middle to late adulthood.

Wait… did that just say weight LOSS!?

It’s true.

Researchers concluded that those who were obese after 47 and then went on to lose weight, were more likely to die prematurely even than those who stayed heavy.*

“In the study reported here, stable obesity and weight loss from an obese to a non-obese pattern from middle to late adulthood had a 20% and 30% higher mortality risk respectively.”

British Medical Journal

*Researchers were very clear to state that one factor that could influence the data is whether the weight loss was intentional or not.  Unintentional weight loss could be a sign of another illness like diabetes or cancer.

In other words, moving from obese to non-obese doesn’t “hold the weight” you think it’s going to if you make the move later on in life.

Seems like a losing battle. The majority of Americans struggle with keeping a healthy weight and now, we are learning that losing that weight may result in an even shorter life—so what are we supposed to do?

“The first message is to try to not gain weight when you’re young, and in old age focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  Weight is a secondary consideration.”

An Pan, a professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Tongji Medical College in Wuhan, China

If you’re in the early years of adulthood, don’t put off a lifestyle change any longer.

You’re never too young to start paying attention to your health.

If you’re in the later years of adulthood, you aren’t doomed! Focus on your daily choices and forget about the number on the scale.

It’s never too late to make healthy changes.

Always talk to your doctor before making any alterations to your lifestyle.

Throw out those jeans from your 20s—they’re out of style anyway! 

References:

British Medical Journal: https://www.bmj.com/content/367/bmj.l5584

Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db313.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/effects/index.html

https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/adult/defining.html

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm

https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/adult_bmi/english_bmi_calculator/bmi_calculator.html

Harvard School of Public Health: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/an-epidemic-of-obesity/

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