Bristol scientists say a modest rise in Body Mass Index (BMI) increases your chances of getting heart disease by a massive 52%.
In a major new study, University of Bristol scientists and colleagues from Copenhagen University Hospital have been able to measure the true effect on weight gain to heart disease.
With obesity on the increase in the UK and abroad, the results show that tackling it is essential if lives are to be saved.
The key findings of the research, published in PLoS Medicine, were based on an examination of the causal relationship between BMI and heart disease in 76,000 individuals.
The team found that reducing BMI will have “a considerable and independent impact if you want to reduce the risk of developing ischemic heart disease (IHD)”.
BMI is a measure used to assess weight adjusting for someone’s height. BMI less than 25 kg/m2 represents normal weight, BMI of 25-30 kg/m2 represents overweight, and BMI over 30 kg/m2 represents obesity.
The research revealed that an elevation in BMI of around 4kg/m2 will increase the risk of developing heart disease by more than 50% on average.
Alongside age, smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol levels, and individuals who have family history of the disease, has been long recognised as a risk factor for heart disease. Despite this, the actual causal contribution of BMI to disease risk has been difficult to quantify, until now.
Dr Nic Timpson, lecturer in Genetic Epidemiology from Bristol University’s School of Social and Community Medicine, said: “In light of rising obesity levels, these findings are fundamental to improving public health. Our research shows that shifting to a lifestyle that promotes a lower BMI (even if it does nothing else) will reduce the odds of developing the disease.”
Meanwhile, Professor Børge Nordestgaard, lead author of the study from the University of Copenhagen, added: “These findings are of key importance, as obesity linked to diabetes is the only major cardiovascular risk factor on the rise in North America and Europe, while smoking, cholesterol levels and hypertension have been decreasing.”