Being “fat but fit” is a myth doctors have warned. People overweight at increased risk of having a heart attack no matter how healthy they are. A major study of more than half a million people across Europe found those overweight, obese or fat had up to a 28 per cent higher risk of developing coronary heart disease as arteries in the heart clog causing a heart attack or heart failure. The overweight people were at higher risk even if they had healthy blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. So latest findings contradict the previous smaller studies suggesting some overweight people can be healthy if they do not suffer from the negative effect connected to weight gain high blood pressure. Researchers led by Imperial College London, Cambridge University, said the study show concept of being fat but fit was ‘a myth.” Lead author, Dr Camille Lassale, said: “Our findings challenge a concept of ‘healthy obese.’ “The research shows overweight individuals who appear healthy are at increased risk of heart disease. Findings suggest patients overweight or obese need all efforts to be made to help them get back to a healthy weight. Even if their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol appear within normal range excess weight is still risk factor. For the study the largest of its kind to date, the scientists looked at health data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) on 520,000 people from 10 countries including UK.
In follow-up period of around 12 years a total of 7,637 people study experienced a serious event linked to a heart disease, like heart attack or death. Researchers compared this group with 10,000 others in study to analyse link between having heart disease event, weight and general health. They found that healthy people overweight had a 26 per cent increased risk developing heart disease compared to the healthy people of normal weight. The risk for healthy obese people with a BMI over 30 was 28 per cent. Scientists said this may be due to the overweight eventually leads to health problems so people with excess weight who were healthy at the start of the study may have gone on to develop problems which led to heart disease. Dr Ioanna Tzoulaki from the Imperial’s School of Public Health, said: ‘I think there is no longer this concept of healthy obese. Our study shows people with excess weight might be classed as ‘healthy’ but have not yet developed an unhealthy metabolic profile. That comes later in the timeline, then they have an event like a heart attack.” Researchers found being unhealthy was a key risk for developing heart disease, no matter what their BMI was. Participants in the study were classed as “unhealthy” if they had three key markers: high blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol or a large waist size of more than 37′ (94cm) for men or 31′ (80cm) for women. “Unhealthy” people were at more than a double risk of developing heart disease regardless of whether of normal weight, overweight or obese. Unhealthy obese people at the highest risk two and half times healthy people of a normal weight. Scientists took into account the lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet, exercise and socioeconomic status. They are looking into exactly how the obesity leads to heart attacks study published in European Heart Journal. The Professor Metin Avkiran, the associate medical director at British Heart Foundation, which part-funded the research, said: “This study provides robust evidence that there is no such thing as ‘healthy obesity.’ “It shows that being obese increases a person’s risk of developing heart disease, even if they are otherwise healthy. “The take-home message is maintaining a healthy body weight is key step towards maintaining a healthy heart.” Earlier this year Dutch study of 5,300 people suggested obese over-55s could stay healthy if they kept active for at least four hours a day. They found exercise reduced risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, regardless of someone’s BMI implying it was possible to be both fat and fit. That is the current position educating big people to go for regular check ups even if they feel well. It is better to ensure being fat or big as a healthy way of life lasts into the future to avoid any preventable heart attacks.