Study Better Defines the Ties Between BMI and Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

Janet Tiberian Author
By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
April 13, 2018
Your BMI Affects Your Risk for Cardiovascular Disease

The connection between cardiovascular disease risk and obesity is not new. But a recent study has better defined that risk based on body mass index (BMI). 

Being obese, measured as a BMI of 30 or greater, increases your risk for cardiovascular disease and a shorter lifespan, according to a new study published in JAMA Cardiology. Having a BMI of 25 and higher, considered overweight, also adds to your risk of cardiovascular disease but doesn’t seem to affect lifespan, researchers said.

“Obesity is an epidemic in the US,” says Bernard Kaminetsky, MD, medical director, MDVIP. “And it’s a complex problem that involves many factors.”

Almost 40 percent of adults and 19 percent of children in the United States are obese, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s an epidemic that started in the early 1980s and has expanded, experts say.

Your weight is determined by the energy exchange: Calories consumed (food and drink) minus calories burned (activity and metabolism) equals your weight. Altering any part of this equation will affect your weight. 

As you age, maintaining a balance between food and exercise won’t necessarily keep you thin. That’s because metabolisms slow, and people burn fewer calories. Your activity level will probably also slow down. Typical aging issues like hormonal imbalances, stress, sleep deprivation, health conditions and medications also contribute to weight gain as people get older. 

There’s also inactivity. “Before emailing, texting and scanning, people had to walk to a mailbox, copier or fax machine. Most people don’t realize the number of calories they used to burn performing simple manual tasks. And these calories add up to pounds,” Kaminetsky says. 

Food portions have also grown, and our diets have become increasingly dependent upon less healthy foods with lots of refined carbohydrates. Experts believe these dietary changes significantly contributed to the epidemic. 

Even if you look thin, you’re not out of the woods when it comes to cardiovascular disease. Skinny fat (or metabolically obese normal weight) is a term coined to describe someone who is thin but in poor condition and carrying weight around their mid-section. Being skinny fat raises your risk of a cardiovascular-related death higher than if you weighed more and your fat was evenly distributed, according to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.      

“Many ‘skinny fat’ people don’t realize they may have high cardiovascular risks.” says Kaminetsky. “This is why the MDVIP Wellness Program includes a body composition assessment. Pounds are nothing more than numbers on a scale – they really don’t provide you with helpful information. It’s much more important to know your percentage of lean body tissue and fat tissue.

 If you’re trying to control your weight, get your body composition tested and work with your MDVIP-affiliated physician. Looking for a primary care physician? Physicians in MDVIP-affiliated practices can customize a wellness plan for you. Find an MDVIP affiliate near you and begin your partnership in health »

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About the Author
Janet Tiberian Author
Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES

Janet Tiberian is MDVIP's health educator. She has more than 25 years experience in chronic disease prevention and therapeutic exercise.

View All Posts By Janet Tiberian, MA, MPH, CHES
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