A large new Danish-British study from the University of Copenhagen and University of Bristol documents for the first time a definite correlation between a high BMI and the risk of developing life-threatening cardiac disease.
Heart attack, atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries and angina – also called ischemic heart disease – are the most common causes of death in adults worldwide. In the US alone, 500,000 people die from heart disease each year. For the first time, researchers can now show that there is a direct correlation between a high Body Mass Index (BMI) and the risk of developing heart disease.
The new study is published in the esteemed journal PLOS Medicine on May 1. Here scientists from the University of Copenhagen and their colleagues at the University of Bristol show that obesity in itself is damaging to heart health. The results are based on a study of 75,627 individuals.
“Our study supports existing observational studies, but weighs much heavier as a scientific argument. A BMI increase of 4 kg/m2 increases the risk of heart disease by no less than 52 per cent,” says Professor Børge Nordestgaard, chief physician at Copenhagen University Hospital and clinical professor at The Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen.
“By doing epidemiological studies combined with genetic analysis, we have been able to show in a group of nearly 76,000 persons that a high BMI is enough in itself to damage the heart. Observational studies have also suggested a relationship between heart disease and obesity, but that is not enough to prove a direct correlation”, says Nordestgaard.
“Obese people can share characteristics or lifestyle traits that have an influence on both the heart and weight. Or there can be a reverse causality – that is, it is the diseased heart that causes obesity and not the other way round,” he says.