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Risk of sudden cardiac death increases with overweight and obesity during early adulthood

Posted:  Thursday, December 03, 2015

Yet another study substantiates the link between obesity and risk of heart disease. A recent study has established that elevated weight during early adulthood is associated with increased risk of sudden cardiac death.

Published in the journal JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology, the 32-year study tracked 72,484 healthy women, who were primarily Caucasian and educated. The researchers gathered data on the height and weight of the subjects at the beginning of the study (as they remembered it at age 18), and through questionnaires distributed every 2 years during the study tenure.

This information was evaluated to understand the link between body mass index (BMI) and weight gain and the risk for sudden cardiac death, and death from coronary heart disease and non-fatal heart attacks. A total of 445 cases of sudden cardiac death, 1,286 cases of fatal coronary heart disease, and 2,272 non-fatal heart attacks were reported. The following were the highlights of the findings:

•  In comparison to women with normal weight (BMI 21–23), overweight women (BMI 25–30) had a 1.5-times greater risk of sudden cardiac death over the next two years, while obese women (BMI 30 or greater) had a 2-time greater risk.

•  Irrespective of the BMI at age 18, weight gain in early-to-mid adulthood was linked to heightened risk of sudden cardiac death. Specifically, the risk was 2 times greater in women who gained 44 lbs or more during early to mid-adulthood.

•  Although not as strong a link as with sudden cardiac death, higher the BMI, greater was the risk of fatal coronary heart disease and non-fatal heart attacks.

•  Almost 75% of all sudden cardiac deaths have been recorded in patients not considered high-risk based on current guidelines.

David J. Wilber, M.D., editor-in-chief of JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology said, "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."

The researchers also cautioned that weight loss later on does not completely eliminate the risk of sudden cardiac death due to excess weight or substantial weight gain.

The study reiterates the significance of maintaining a healthy weight throughout adulthood to play down the risk of sudden cardiac death. Additionally, there is a need to formulate broader prevention strategies to reduce the burden of sudden cardiac death in the general population.

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