Three Big Factors to Beat Heart Disease if Obese

Heart disease risk may be cut in half by controlling blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Being overweight or obese can raise the risk for heart disease and stroke. While losing weight may help, shedding pounds can be hard. There may be other ways for overweight people to lower these risks.

A new study found that obese and overweight people may substantially reduce their risk for heart disease and stroke by managing blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.

"Control blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol if you're overweight."

Goodarz Danaei, MD, assistant professor of global health at Harvard School of Public Health, led an international team on this project. That team included researchers from Imperial College London and University of Sydney.

Dr. Danaei and fellow scientists analyzed data from 97 studies from around the world. These studies represented 1.8 million participants.

After crunching the numbers on this pooled data, these researchers saw that interventions to reduce high blood pressure (hypertension), cholesterol and blood sugar might address about half of excess risk of coronary heart disease and three quarters of excess risk of stroke linked with high body mass index (BMI).

BMI is a measure used to determine if someone is underweight, overweight or a healthy weight.

“Maintenance of optimum bodyweight is needed for the full benefits,” wrote the authors of this study.

Dr. Danaei told dailyRx News, “What we are saying here is that if [losing weight] turns out to be too hard to do, there is still an option which is at least to control their blood pressure and cholesterol and diabetes. So weight maintenance and weight loss remain the most effective way to reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, but controlling blood pressure and cholesterol also provide substantial benefits.”

Of the big three factors, high blood pressure appeared to pose the greatest health danger, according to these researchers. High blood pressure accounted for almost a third of the increased risk of heart disease and almost two thirds of the increased risk of stroke among overweight or obese people.

Various interventions may be effective in addressing the risk factors, including blood pressure medication, lipid-lowering therapy (to reduce cholesterol and other blood fats and oils), exercise and diet.

“Interventions related to diet that lower the intake of salt, saturated and trans fats, and processed carbohydrates, and increase the consumption of fruits, vegetables, unsaturated fats, and whole grains, can improve the metabolic risk profile even when total calories remain unchanged, but access to these interventions needs to be improved worldwide,” the authors wrote.

While treating hypertension, cholesterol and blood sugar may prevent some of the harmful effects of being overweight or obese, weight loss should still be a goal to achieve optimal health, according to these researchers.

Dr. Danaei and his colleagues concluded that “creative and bold strategies are needed that can curb and reverse rising adiposity [obesity] so that the full benefits for cardiovascular disease and diabetes reduction can be achieved.”

This study was published online November 22 in The Lancet. Funding was provided by the US National Institute of Health, UK Medical Research Council, National Institute for Health Research Comprehensive Biomedical Research Centre at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Lown Scholars in Residence Program on cardiovascular disease prevention and Harvard Global Health Institute Doctoral Research Grant.

Review Date: 
November 21, 2013
Last Updated:
February 11, 2014