Home Am I at Risk? Overweight & Obesity - Page 2

Overweight & Obesity - Page 2

What effect does overweight and obesity have on my risk of stroke?

Women who are overweight or obese are more likely to suffer a stroke than women who are not overweight. In nearly 40,000 women in the Women’s Health Study, obese women had a 50% higher risk of total stroke and a 72% higher risk of blocked-vessel (ischemic) stroke over 10 years compared with women of normal weight.19 In the Nurse’s Health Study of 117,000 women, having a BMI higher than 27 increased a woman’s risk for suffering a blocked-vessel stroke between 75% and 240%; the more excess weight a woman carried, the higher her risk.20

Many studies find that the increased stroke risks associated with obesity are strongly related to other measurable stroke risk factors. In the Women’s Health Study, the relationship between obesity and stroke risk was accounted for by the harmful elevations in blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol found in obese women.

Being obese may also slow your recovery from a stroke. In one study of 451 patients (72% were women) who suffered a blocked-vessel stroke, patients who had a high BMI were less likely to be discharged directly home from the hospital stroke service: 74% of obese patients required care at an additional facility, compared with 55% of non-overweight patients. Obese stroke victims also tended to have a longer hospital stay.21

How does being overweight affect my stroke risk?

While overweight and obesity seem to directly contribute to heart disease by putting more strain on your heart, excess weight seems to increase your risk of stroke in a more indirect way, by making you more likely to develop other risk factors for stroke or making any risk factors you already have worse, including:22

  • High blood pressure: Obese women are nearly 3 times as likely to have high blood pressure as those who are at a healthy weight. Overweight women are nearly twice as likely. Weight loss—even modest weight loss—can lower your blood pressure if you are overweight or obese.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes is a condition where a person’s body either doesn’t make enough or doesn’t respond to insulin—the chemical in the body that regulates how sugar is used and stored. Overweight women are more than twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as people who are not overweight. Weight loss can lower your risk of developing diabetes if you are overweight or obese.
  • High cholesterol: Excess fat sends chemical signals that affect how we digest our food. It raises our LDL (bad) cholesterol and lowers our HDL (good) cholesterol, causing fatty plaque to build up along the walls of blood vessels and lead to stroke. Weight loss can improve your cholesterol levels if you are overweight or obese.

Being overweight is one step towards developing the metabolic syndrome.22, 23 Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors for heart disease and stroke that tend to occur together.24, 25 These include a large waistline and higher than normal blood sugar, blood pressure, and triglyceride levels.23, 26 Obesity can also activate parts of the inflammatory response—the body’s response to injury—which increases the level of a protein called C-reactive protein (CRP) in your blood.27, 28 Having high levels of CRP may increase your risk of stroke.29

Overweight and obesity also increase the risk of many other health problems such as breast, colon, and uterine cancer, osteoarthritis, and breathing problems.30

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