CLEVELAND – It’s widely known that risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can spell danger for heart health.
But a recent study looks at whether obesity alone is a risk factor for heart disease.
Haitham Ahmed, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic did not take part in the study, but said it shows that even if a person has good numbers, if they are obese, they still carry an increased risk for heart disease.
“They saw that even if you’re metabolically healthy obese, meaning you are obese, but have no other risk factors – no high blood pressure, no high cholesterol, no diabetes – you still could have more coronary heart disease, more heart failure and more strokes than people who are normal weight,” said Dr. Ahmed.
The study looked at 3.5 million adults who did not have a history of heart disease.
Researchers followed participants for more than five years and found that obesity alone was a marker for future heart disease.
Dr. Ahmed said it’s important to note that the study did not look at factors such as diet, fitness or physical activity, which can also play a role in heart risk.
He said it’s essential for those who are obese to reduce their weight, even if they don’t have additional risk factors.
“Having fat and especially central adiposity around the mid-abdomen area has been shown to be correlated with risk of heart disease down the line,” said Dr. Ahmed. “So it really is imperative to reduce that weight, even if you don’t have additional risk factors.”
Dr. Ahmed said the first step to reducing body weight is to start getting more movement into the day, which does not have to involve joining a gym or starting an intense workout plan.
In fact, he said it’s best to start slow with a walking plan.
“You can go to the mall where it’s a nice warm, 70 degrees, and you can just do rounds of back and forth, of fast-paced walking,” said Dr. Ahmed. “It’s actually terrific exercise – you can do ten minutes at a time and aim for half an hour most days of the week – it’s enough to get your heart rate up.”