How to cut your heart disease risks by half

How to cut your heart disease risks by half

Physicians have long known that America’s growing obesity problem has contributed to an increasing risk of cardiovascular issues, including heart disease, heart attack, heart failure and stroke. Now, according to one recent study, those who are obese and overweight can cut the risk to their hearts in half by lowering their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.

The study, released online in the journal The Lancet, involved the analysis of 97 separate studies with a combined 1.8 million participants worldwide. According to the results, these three risk factors accounted for 75 percent of the risk of stroke for the obese and overweight.

According to the study findings, high blood pressure, or hypertension, is the risk factor of most concern, accounting for 31 percent of the increased risk for heart disease and 65 percent of the increased risk for stroke among those who are obese or overweight.

“Our results show that the harmful effects of overweight and obesity on heart disease and stroke partly occur by increasing blood pressure, serum cholesterol and blood glucose,” says Goodarz Danaei, assistant professor of global health at the Harvard School of Public Health said senior author of the study. “Therefore, if we control these risk factors — for example, through better diagnosis and treatment of hypertension — we can prevent some of the harmful effects of overweight and obesity.”

Worldwide, obesity has nearly doubled since 1980, the research team reports, and more than 1.4 billion adults aged 20 and older are overweight or obese. The health consequences of being overweight or obese include not only heart disease and stroke, but also diabetes and several types of cancer.

“I think this is completely in line with the many, many studies I’ve seen over time,” says Dr. Peter Stecy, cardiologist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center. “The numbers were more than one would think in terms of the bad outcomes, particularly stroke.”

Dr. Stecy says these findings are particularly important for patients who are unable to keep their extra weight off, which he says is often more difficult than quitting smoking for many of his patients.

“I think the take-home point is that it further confirms the importance of these risk factors and indicates that even if you’re unable to drop weight and keep it off, you can lower your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, you will have a payoff,” he says.

For more information on heart health and to take Advocate’s heart risk assessment, visit

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.