A Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30 is considered obese, and the connection between obesity and the risk of heart failure has been established in several studies.

Now, researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Imperial College London and the Oslo University Hospital have conducted a new meta-analysis that shows that a BMI between 25 and 30 kilogrammes per square metre, which is considered overweight, is also associated with increased risk.

"Overweight individuals had a 35 per cent increased risk of heart failure as compared with normal weight individuals, and our findings indicate that overweight should be considered a clear risk factor for heart failure," said Dagfinn Aune from Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

BMI shows the relationship between weight and height and is used internationally as a measure of body fat. The risk of heart failure rose on average by 41 per cent for an increase
of five BMI units, researchers said.

Obesity increased the risk two to three times compared with normal weight. Researchers found no differences between men and women in the analysis, which included 23 studies with a total of almost 650,000 participants.

Four studies looked at the link between BMI and the risk of death from heart failure, and the results suggested a 26 per cent higher risk for an increase of 5 BMI units. Researchers saw that every 10-centimetre increase in waist circumference was linked to a 29 per cent higher risk of heart failure. These analyses were based on 12 studies with a total of just over 360,000 participants.

For example, men with a waist circumference of 105 centimetres virtually doubled their risk of heart failure compared with men whose waist measured 83 centimetres, researchers said.

For women, the risk was 80 per cent higher with a waist circumference of 90 centimetres than with a waist circumference of 70 centimetres, they said.

A higher waist-to-hip ratio was also correlated with a progressively greater risk of developing heart failure. "Waist circumference measurements can easily be taken at a regular medical examination and can help when considering the patient's risk of heart failure," said Aune.

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