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Physically fit people who are overweight still at increased heart attack risk

Wednesday 23rd August 2017
People who are fit yet overweight are up to 28 per cent more likely to suffer a heart attack, according to new research. Image: GCammarata via iStock
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The importance of a person's body mass index (BMI) rating has often been disputed, as some argue that if an individual is overweight but physically fit, then they are still in good health.

However, according to new research carried out by doctors at Imperial College London, people who have high fitness levels but who fall into the overweight category on the BMI chart are still at an increased risk of suffering a heart attack.

It was found that this risk rose by more than one-quarter (28 per cent), even if an individual had healthy blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol readings, demonstrating just how important it is for doctors to advise patients to keep within the healthy BMI range and maintain an appropriate weight for their height.

The researchers analysed data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition, which examined information from more than half a million people across Europe. It found that a healthy metabolic profile was essentially irrelevant in reducing heart attack risk if a person was overweight.

Lead author of the study Dr Camille Lassale commented: "Our findings suggest that if a patient is overweight or obese, all efforts should be made to help them get back to a healthy weight, regardless of other factors.

"Even if their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol appear within the normal range, excess weight is still a risk factor."

The researchers also examined a variety of other factors, such as whether or not people smoked, how healthy their diet was and their socioeconomic background, before drawing their conclusions.

People who had unhealthy lifestyle habits were always at higher risk of coronary heart disease. However, this rule shifted slightly when it came to overweight people, as even those who followed a healthy diet and fitness plan were still at increased risk of a heart attack.

With this in mind, medical professionals need to make sure they are taking action to educate more people on the importance of a healthy BMI and of the potential risks of falling into the overweight category.

Written by Mathew Horton

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