According to the results of a new study, increased waist to hip ratio, a marker of abdominal obesity, significantly increases the risk of having a stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack, or “mini-stroke”). Past studies have documented belly fat as a risk for heart disease and heart attack, but researchers haven’t been certain if increased waist circumference also affects stroke risk. The study results are published in the August 14 Online First issue of Stroke.
Increased body mass index (BMI) has been associated with the development of heart disease, but research has shown abdominal fat mass is a stronger predictor of heart disease and heart attack risk. Until now, it hasn’t been certain whether abdominal obesity affects stroke risk. First author Yaroslav Winter, MD, from Klinikum Mannheim at the University of Heidelberg, Germany say, "Thus, data on the role of abdominal obesity for stroke are limited and completely lacking for transient ischemic attacks."
To determine the effects of abdominal obesity and stroke risk, Dr. Winter and colleagues recruited 379 patients with stroke and 758 subjects matched in age and gender as a control. After adjustments were made for other risk factors, the researchers did find an increase in stroke incidence in people with increased BMI, but it wasn’t significant when inactivity, smoking and other risk factors were taken into account. However, markers of abdominal obesity were significantly associated with increased risk for stroke and TIA. The study authors also found that the risk increased with bigger waistlines.
The group concluded, "The redefinition of obesity based on the waist-to-hip ratio or waist circumference instead of BMI increases considerably the estimate of cerebrovascular events attributable to obesity. Senior author Tobias Back, MD, from Saxon Hospital Arnsdorf in Arnsdorf/Dresden, Germany says, "We urgently need trials to test the effect of weight loss on vascular risk profiles, especially on the risk of stroke."
Obesity is a huge public health issue worldwide. Estimates in Germany show that 49.6% of people are overweight, with 13.6% considered obese. In the US, 65.7% of adults are either overweight or obese.
The effects of obesity are have a huge impact on healthcare, and are not to be taken lightly. Weight loss may seem difficult, but many options exist. A sensible weight loss program includes beginning with an exercise program and dietary plan that is satisfying to you. The best way to get started, especially if you have been inactive, is by speaking with your doctor.
Start with a simple walking program. A Mediterranean diet is heart healthy and has been shown to help with weight loss. Start by cutting out sugars and products containing white flour and cutting down on portion size. Studies have shown that a glycemic index (GI) diet is also very beneficial for weight loss. Explore the links below to get started.
Choose a weight loss plan that will work for you, approved by your healthcare provider. The important message is in the obesity statistics. More than half of the US population needs to take weight-loss action. Take time, and don’t look for a rapid weight loss solution. We now know the importance of looking closely at our waistlines as a definite risk for heart disease and stroke.
Stroke. Published online August 14, 2008.
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