Being overweight and the risk of heart disease & stroke
Some of the most common problems seen in people who carry excess weight, such as high blood pressure and unhealthy levels of cholesterol and other fats in the blood, tend to occur together. Both can lead to concurrent health problems—namely, heart disease and stroke.
High blood pressure is about six times more common in people who are obese than in those who are lean. According to the American Heart Association, 22 pounds of excess weight boosts systolic blood pressure (the first number in a reading) by an average of 3 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and diastolic blood pressure (the second number) by an average of 2.3 mm Hg, which translates to a 24% increase in stroke risk.
A study in Archives of Internal Medicine examined the connection between weight and heart disease by pooling results from 21 different studies involving more than 300,000 people. The study found:
- Being overweight boosted the risk of heart disease by 32%
- Obesity increased the risk by 81%
Although the adverse effects of overweight on blood pressure and cholesterol levels could account for 45% of the increased heart disease risk, even modest amounts of excess weight can increase the odds of heart disease independent of those well-known risks, the authors concluded.
Compared with people of normal weight, overweight people face a 22% higher risk of stroke. For those who are obese, the increased risk rises to 64%, according to a 2017 report in the journal Stroke, which pooled results from 25 studies involving more than two million people.