Melbourne: Even minor increases in the body mass index (BMI) can raise a person's risk of developing heart disease, scientists, including an Indian-origin researcher, have warned.
Researchers at the Australian National University tracked over 158,000 participants of the Sax Institute's 45 and Up Study with no history of cardiovascular disease for four years.
Scientists wanted to see how incremental increases in body mass index increased their risk of going to hospital for a range of cardiovascular diseases.
The study found even relatively minor increases in BMI come with increased cardiovascular risk.
"The risk of heart attack and angina increased by 23 per cent with each 5 unit increase in BMI," said lead author of the study, Dr Grace Joshy of the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health (NCEPH) at ANU.
"The lowest risk is for a BMI from 20-22.5 and then it increases gradually from there. For moderately overweight people, the risk is 43 per cent higher. For a BMI of above 32.5, the risk of heart attack and angina is more than doubled," Joshy said.
"We used to think that it was only people with very serious weight problems that were at an elevated risk of heart disease," said senior author Professor Emily Banks of NCEPH and the Sax Institute.
"These are the first large-scale Australia data to show us that there is no 'safe' level of overweight, when it comes to heart disease. The increase in risk was found in people who did and did not exercise, those with and without diabetes and in urban, rural and remote areas.
"If you want to minimise your risk you need to pay attention to your weight. It's a serious matter and it does impact your risk of cardiovascular disease," said Banks.