Greater Weight Linked to Stroke at Younger Age

Obesity paradox did not hold up as stroke fatalities were similar for overweight and regular weight patients

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

(RxWiki News) According to the so-called "obesity paradox", people who are overweight and have had a stroke have a better chance of surviving than their normal and underweight counterparts. However, some research is starting to debunk this idea.

Although past studies have supported the obesity paradox, a new study found no evidence to back up those previous findings.

In addition to discounting the obesity paradox as it applies to stroke deaths, the team found that greater weight was linked to stroke at a younger age.

"Talk to your doctor about weight management and mitigating stroke risks."

Christian Dehlendorff, MS, PhD, and Klaus Andersen, MS, PhD, both of the Danish Cancer Society Research Center, conducted this research along with Tom Olsen, MD, PhD, of the Stroke Unit at Frederiksberg University Hospital, also in Denmark.

In analyzing the obesity paradox, the Danish scientists studied survival after stroke and its relation to body mass index (BMI), a ratio of weight to height often used as a measure of obesity.

A stroke occurs when blood flow to a part of the brain stops, which can lead to permanent brain damage.

This study included 71,617 participants. Of those, 7,878 (11 percent) died within the first month after a stroke, with stroke reported as the cause of death for 5,512 patients (70 percent).

In the subset of the study group for whom BMI information was available, 9.7 percent were underweight, 39 percent were normal weight, 34.5 percent were overweight, and 16.8 percent were obese.

High BMI was associated with having a stroke at a younger age. There was no difference in the risk for death from stroke in the first month among patients who were normal weight, overweight and obese.

"This study was unable to confirm the existence of an obesity paradox in stroke," the research team said in a prepared statement.

“The risk of obese patients with stroke for death did not differ from that of normal-weight patients with stroke nor was there evidence of a survival advantage associated with being overweight," they said.

These researchers concluded that obese patients who have had a stroke should strive to achieve a healthy BMI.

"Much more information is needed before we can definitively say that overweight people who have had a stroke have a better chance at survival than their normal and underweight counterparts, and vice versa," said Rusty Gregory, a personal trainer and wellness coach in Austin, Texas and author of "Self-Care Reform: How to Discover Your Own Path to Good Health."

"Body weight is not always a good indicator of health risk. For example, people who exercise regularly, manage their stress, don't smoke, eliminate unhealthy foods from their diet and get ample sleep, regardless of their weight, will benefit in a healthy way from the effects of these lifestyle behaviors. Those who don't perform these behaviors will invariably suffer the consequences of not doing so. These factors, as well as family history, allow for a heavier person to be healthier than a lighter one," Gregory told dailyRx News.

This study was published online June 2 in JAMA Neurology.

Funding was provided by the Danish Jascha Fonden, a charitable foundation that supports various types of medical research and patient support.

The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
June 3, 2014
Last Updated:
June 6, 2014