Having a big belly greatly increases the risk of death after a heart attack, according to a new study that suggests weight loss is a critical life-saving proposition for cardiovascular patients.
In a presentation to the European Society of Cardiology Congress this week, French researchers said a five-year analysis of 3,670 heart-attack patients found men and women with severe abdominal obesity were far more likely to die than those with little belly fat.
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Patients who were extremely underweight were also found to be at risk, the results showed.
"High waist circumference, severe obesity, and underweight are associated with the greatest risk of death in heart attack survivors," said lead researcher Tabassome Simon. "It is not good to be too lean or too fat, but it is worse still when you have a big belly.
"From a public health standpoint, educational messages in patients having sustained a heart attack should focus more on the most severe forms of obesity and abdominal obesity and on other risk factors [such as smoking and being sedentary], rather than on overweight and mild obesity."
For the study, Simon and colleagues tracked associations between body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and 5-year mortality rates in French patients treated for a heart attack.
The results showed very underweight patients had the highest death rates, followed by severely obese patients and those with "severe abdominal obesity" — high levels of belly fat.
"We found that both lean patients and very obese patients had an increased risk of death at 5 years [and] being in the upper quartile of waist circumference (i.e. having a big belly considering your weight) was also an indicator of increased mortality at 5 years," Simon said.
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