Obese women twice likely to suffer heart attack or stroke

Washington: Young women who are obese may have a greater risk of heart attack or stroke, according to a new research.

In fact, women with a high body mass index (BMI)-a measure of the body`s fat content-that is indicative of obesity were twice as likely as those of normal weight to suffer a potentially life-threatening heart attack or stroke within just four to five years following childbirth, the study found

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen said that while these cardiac events are very rare among women of this age, there is a very clear and strong link between carrying excess weight and suffering a heart attack or stroke.

These associations remained unchanged even after accounting for other pregnancy-associated complications or cardiovascular risk factors, including smoking.

"Young women need to be aware that there are serious health risks associated with obesity and poor lifestyle habits, and these [negative effects] appear to set in early," said Michelle Schmiegelow, a PhD student at the University of Copenhagen and the study`s lead investigator.

"This study is important because although the incidence of heart disease is declining overall, this downward trend doesn`t seem to apply to women 35 to 44 years of age. In fact, coronary artery disease seems to be on the rise in this group, however it is still very rare," she added.

According to Schmiegelow, the Danish study is the largest to date, and gives investigators a better glimpse into the role of obesity and cardiac events at younger ages. Previous studies have typically involved women older than 45 years. Interestingly, researchers also found that women who were underweight were slightly more prone to having a heart attack or stroke as well, although this trend needs to be further investigated.

Researchers used data from nationwide registries, as well as the Danish Medical Birth Register, which collects women`s height and weight, to examine the association between obesity and the risk of heart attack and stroke in 273,101 women who had given birth between 2004 and 2009.

Their average age was 30.5 years and they had no history of stroke, heart disease or kidney problems. The absolute numbers of cardiac events were low. During the follow up, 68 women had a heart attack and 175 had an ischemic stroke.

Schmiegelow said that while this evaluation was limited to women who had given birth, she believes it is applicable to other young, healthy women in Denmark and in other countries

The finding was presented at the American College of Cardiology `s 62nd Annual Scientific Session.