Obesity reported to improve heart failure outcome

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2012-07-03 13:35

Heart failure affects 5.8 million people, including 2.5 million women. Approximately one-half to two-thirds of heart failure patients are overweight or obese. A slim waist and normal weight are regarded to be associated with good health. However, according to a new UCLA study, a trim body may not be an advantage for an individual suffering from heart failure.

The researchers published their findings online on July 1 in the American Journal of Cardiology.

The researchers found that in both men and women with advanced heart failure, obesity — as indicated by a high body mass index (BMI) — and a higher waist circumference were factors that put them at significantly less risk for adverse outcomes. Women and men are known to have differences in body composition and body-fat distribution, and this study is one of the first to specifically assess the impact of BMI and waist circumference on women and compare it with men. The findings also offer further insight into an observed phenomenon in chronic heart failure known as the “obesity paradox.” Obesity is a known risk factor for developing heart disease and heart failure; however, once heart failure has manifested, being overweight may provide some protective benefits.

“The study provides us with more insight about how both genders of heart failure patients may be impacted by the obesity paradox,” noted senior author Dr. Tamara Horwich, an assistant professor of cardiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He added, “Heart failure may prove to be one of the few health conditions where extra weight may prove to be protective.”

For the study, the investigators analyzed data on advanced heart failure patients treated at UCLA Medical Center from 1983 to 2011. The team assessed 2,718 patients who had their BMI measured at the beginning of heart failure treatment and 469 patients who had their waist circumference measured at the beginning of treatment. Using standardized measures, the researchers identified men or women as having a high BMI if they were greater or equal to 25 kg/m² — this included both overweight patients (25 to 29.9 kg/m²) and obese patients (30 kg/m² or greater).

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