Heart Failure Tied to Teens’ Weight
It’s a common assumption that if you end up being diagnosed early-in-life with obesity, but during adulthood you manage to finally lose a significant amount of weight, you will reverse many of the health risks associated with obesity. However, a new study suggests that a high BMI as a teen increases your risk of heart failure even if you diet away the pounds later on in adulthood.
The study puts weight during one’s teen years, front-and-center as a crucial element with regards to long term health consequences. In fact, the researchers found the implications of the study findings, quite worrisome. With burgeoning rates of childhood and teen obesity, it was always considered a given that if you could shed the excess weight as a young or middle age adult, you could reverse and lower many health risk factors. This study suggests that the assumption may not hold true for all health risks.
The study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, compiled data from a county in Norway where between the years 1966 and 1969, subjects were weighed and measured before undergoing tuberculosis screening. More than 26,000 of these subjects went on to participate in a second and third HUNT study in the 1980’s and mid-1990s. Though risk of having a heart attack was more closely correlated to higher BMI more recently, heart failure risk correlated more with cumulative years of a higher BMI. The earlier in life the BMI was noted as high, the greater the risk of heart failure in middle age years, irrespective of BMI at that time.
The risk for heart failure associated with an early-in-life elevated BMI persisted even after researchers adjusted for gender, age, smoking, alcohol consumption, education level, marital status and physical activity. It’s important to note that with regards to heart attack risk, a high BMI correlates with likelihood of hypertension, diabetes, and a poor blood fat profile – all risk factors for heart attack. So it’s not the elevated BMI singularly, but rather the co-morbid conditions associated with an elevated BMI that heighten the risk of a heart attack.
The same does not hold true for heart failure, which led the researchers to suspect that an elevated BMI, signaling obesity, may directly weaken the heart and prime it for heart failure later-in-life. Researchers also found that a stable weight, even if elevated, helped to lower the risk for heart failure a bit, when compared to yo-yo dieting and numerous weight loss-weight gain cycles.
This study should be a wake-up call to parents to focus on efforts to limit childhood and teen obesity. Healthy family habits can help to protect children from developing obesity. If your child or teen has been diagnosed with obesity, then seek help from your pediatrician and consider working with a dietician or nutritionist as part of the treatment plan. HealthCorps offers a high-school based program that aims to intercept teen obesity. HCU is a curriculum that can be taught at schools that don’t have access to HealthCorps living labs.