Three Key Risk Factors Heart Disease
November 22, 2013

Cut Heart Disease In Half By Lowering Three Risk Factors

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

A new research review published by The Lancet from the Harvard School of Public Health and Imperial College London has found that blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose are critical factors for determining the risk of cardiovascular disease linked to being overweight or obese.

The review included 97 studies from around the world, 1.8 million people, and more than 57 years of research. It found that controlling hypertension, cholesterol and blood glucose can cut the number of heart attacks linked to being overweight or obese by 50 percent and the number of strokes associated with too much weight by 75 percent.

The review team found that simply being overweight was related to a 26 percent increased risk of a cardiac event and a 13 percent increased risk of stroke. For these folks, getting treatment for high blood pressure, cholesterol and high blood sugar cut the increased odds of suffering a heart attack to 13 percent on average, and completely reduced the additional risk of stroke due to being overweight.

They also found that being obese increased the risk of coronary disease by 69 percent and stroke by 47 percent, on average. For obese individuals, treatment for the three risk factors cut added risks to 39 percent for heart attack and 14 percent for stroke.

"Our results show that the harmful effects of being overweight or obese on heart disease and stroke partly occur by increasing blood pressure, serum cholesterol and blood glucose," said study author Goodarz Danaei, an HSPH epidemiologist. “Therefore, if we control these risk factors, for example through better diagnosis and treatment of hypertension, we can prevent some of the harmful effects of being overweight or obese.”

Previous studies had found that the same factors all increase the risk of heart attack and stroke in people who are overweight or obese, but the new report produced a highly comprehensive analysis by considering blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose independently and together – as well as in different parts of the world, the review team said. Their methods revealed that high blood pressure is the most significant risk factor – responsible for 31 percent of the greater risk of heart disease and 65 percent of the greater risk of stroke.

"Large, long-term population studies like this one are a very powerful tool, allowing researchers to disentangle individual factors and understand how they each contribute to our risk of disease,” said Stephen Hill, chair of the Molecular and Cellular Medicine Board for the UK’s Medical Research Council.

“It's interesting that, even when blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol are brought under control, obese individuals are still at a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. This suggests that other factors might be at play, which is likely to be of interest for future research into the consequences of obesity."

"Controlling hypertension, cholesterol, and diabetes through medication is useful, but not enough to offset the harms of overweight and obesity,” added study author Majid Ezzati, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London. “So we need to find creative approaches that can curb and reverse the global obesity epidemic."