UAB Study Shows Dangers of Long-Term Obesity

Long Term Effects of Obesity

According to a recent study conducted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), the longer someone is overweight or obese, the higher their risk of developing coronary artery calcification (otherwise known as atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries). This process tends to be a significant risk factor for heart disease, especially if abdominal obesity began in early adulthood.

This research suggests that prohibiting or at least delaying the onset of obesity in young adults would have an impact on the incidence of atherosclerosis in middle aged adults. Of course, the big picture involves reducing the rate of cardiovascular disease in the United States.

“Recent studies have shown that the duration of overall obesity is associated with higher rates of diabetes and mortality independent of the degree of adiposity. However, few studies have determined the cardiovascular consequences of long-term obesity,” stated Dr. Cora E. Lewis, a co-author of this obesity clinical study.

Effects of Higher Obesity Rates

According to Dr. Lewis, the rate of obesity amongst adults, children, and adolescents has skyrocketed over the last 30 years. In particular, Alabama has seen a significant spike in the number of obese citizens in the last couple decades. Overall, it seems that younger people are undergoing a larger cumulative exposure to excess fatty tissue over the course of their lifetime.

During this clinical study, the UAB research team looked at how long a person was overweight and the general level of abdominal obesity they had. Next, they monitored the presence and progression of coronary artery calcification. This obesity clinical study included 3,275 black and white adults ages 18-30.

Those who were not obese did have a BMI of less than 30. These included male subjects who measured in with a waist circumference less than 40.2 inches, and female subjects who had a waist circumference of less than 34.6 inches. This means that they did not meet the qualifications for being abnormally obese.

The Duration of Abdominal and Overall Obesity

The research team had their participants undergo CT scans in order to look for the presence of coronary artery calcification during 15-, 20- and 25-year follow-up examinations. The duration of abdominal and overall obesity was determined through repeat measurements of BMI and waist circumference, respectively, performed 2, 5, 7, 10, 15, 20 and 25 years after the beginning of the study.

Overall, hardened arteries were present in 27.5 percent of the participants. Dr. Lewis explained that the presence and extent of coronary artery calcification was linked to the duration of abdominal and overall obesity. Also, about 40 percent of the participants with 20 years of overall and abdominal obesity did have atherosclerosis compared to less than 25 percent of those who never had been overall or abdominally obese.

“We found that each year of overall or abdominal obesity beginning in early adulthood was associated with a 2-4 percent higher risk for coronary artery calcification and its progression later in life,” stated Dr. Lewis.

Interpreting the Results of this Study

When the research team analyzed all the data from this study, it became clear that the risk of atherosclerosis was highest amongst the people who had been obese for longer periods of time. For those who are concerned about the long-term health of their hearts, this medical condition can be life-threatening.

“These findings not only suggest that lowering the length of exposure to obesity can decrease the incidence of cardiovascular disease, they also indicate that in order to estimate the effect of cumulative exposure to excess overall and abdominal obesity over a person’s life, future studies should measure both the degree and duration of obesity,” states Lewis.

With the rising prevalence of obesity and heart disease in the United States, research studies like these have become all that more essential. Each year, more people are killed by heart disease than anything else and serious action is needed.


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