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Jun 29, 2016

Obese Male Teens at High Risk for Heart Failure as Adults

Swedish study finds that obese young men are nearly ten times more likely to develop heart failure by middle age.

Obese male teens are nearly ten times more likely to develop heart failure by middle age than their normal-weight counterparts, based on an analysis of a large Swedish registry that followed 1.6 million men for more than four decades.

Published in the European Heart Journal, this study looked at the impact of adolescent overweight and obesity on future risk for heart failure. Heart failure, which occurs when the heart can’t pump enough blood to the rest of the body, is most common in older patients since risk increases with age. However, the rise in obesity has contributed to increased heart failure rates, particularly in younger adults. Experts worry about the effects of childhood obesity on future heart failure risk.

To learn more, researchers analyzed data from a Swedish registry, which tracked hospitalizations among more than 1.6 men from the age of 18. Participants were followed for up to 42 years, during which time there were nearly 5,500 hospitalizations for heart failure.

Overall, men with heart failure were diagnosed at an average age of 46. However, their risk for developing heart failure varied significantly by adolescent body weight. Men who were obese as teens were 6–9 times more likely to develop heart failure by middle age. In fact, even men who were on the higher end of the body mass index for “normal weight” had 22% greater risk for heart failure than those on the lower end.

Of course, it’s important to note that this study included only Swedish men, so findings may not be applicable to the general U.S. population. However, overweight and obesity are well-established risk factors for heart failure. Given the current obesity epidemic, experts worry about the strong link found between teenage obesity and future heart failure risk.

With childhood obesity rates at an all-time high, it’s likely that heart failure rates will continue to increase among young adults. As a result, experts highlight the need for education and interventions to combat obesity and promote better health at all stages in life.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is a healthy weight for me?
  • A few important tools can be used to determine if an individual is underweight, normal weight or overweight. The easiest tool is a Body Mass Index, which is calculated using height and weight to estimate levels of body fat. However, Body Mass Index is not always accurate, particularly among individuals with extremely high or low amounts of muscle. In these cases, measuring waist circumference is helpful in assessing weight, as a waist circumference greater than 35 inches for a woman or 40 inches for a man is considered unhealthy.
  • Who is at risk for heart failure?

  • Risk for heart failure increases with age, and is most common in patients with heart disease or other cardiovascular conditions, such as arrhythmia or history of heart attack. 

Infographic: Heart Failure

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