Weight Loss Always Counts for Heart Health

Losing weight at any age could significantly improve heart health

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

(RxWiki News) Even after losing weight, many people end up gaining it back later. Does that time spent at a lower weight still come with health benefits?

Researchers recently looked at data from a survey that examined lifelong patterns of weight gain and loss and heart health.

They found that, although some participants lost weight over the course of their lifetime, very few kept it off.

However, the researchers also discovered that increased exposure to excess weight was tied to heart disease risk factors.

The authors of this study suggested that weight loss at any age in adulthood is worthwhile because it can lead to improved heart health.

"If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about a safe weight loss plan."

Marietta Charakida, PhD, of the National Centre for Cardiovascular Prevention and Outcomes at University College London, led this study.

According to Dr. Charakida and colleagues, excess body fat is tied to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

For this study, the researchers looked at the impact of excess weight on heart disease risk factors throughout lifetimes of 1,273 participants.

The researchers used a national survey of individuals born in March 1946 in England, Scotland and Wales. They followed up with the participants at ages 36, 43, 53 and 60-64 years. They also determined if the participants were normal weight, overweight or obese during childhood.

These researchers examined the patterns of change in body mass index (BMI) — a measure used to determine if someone is overweight, underweight or a healthy weight — and how those changes related to the thickness of the arteries in the heart, blood pressure, diabetes and other health factors.

Thicker carotid arteries are a marker for heart health problems.

Dr. Charakida and team found that 926 participants, or 73 percent, were overweight or obese during childhood. More than 600 participants remained overweight or obese into adulthood.

During the 27 years of follow-up in adulthood, the prevalence of overweight or obese participants increased from 27 percent to 67 percent.

The researchers also discovered that 13 percent of the participants reduced their BMI during adulthood, but only 2 percent kept that weight off.

The participants who were overweight or obese at age 60-64 had thicker arteries in their heart than those who were at a normal weight.

Additionally, the overweight and obese group was 2.48 times more likely to have type 2 diabetes.

The researchers also found that thicker carotid arteries and higher blood pressure were tied to increased amount of time being overweight or obese. In other words, the longer a participant spent with excess weight, the more likely they were to be at risk for heart disease.

The researchers concluded that exposure to excess weight had a cumulative negative effect on heart health later in life.

They suggested that weight loss at any point in one's lifetime would be worthwhile, as it may result in a healthier heart.

This study was published in the Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology on May 20.

This research was funded by the Medical Research Council and the British Heart Foundation. Some of the researchers reported financial ties to pharmaceutical companies and medical organizations.

Review Date: 
May 20, 2014
Last Updated:
May 20, 2014