Weight fluctuation may raise heart attack and stroke risk
- Fluctuations in your weight and other metrics may increase the risk of serious health issues, according to a new study.
- The study measured changes in weight, blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol in more than 6,700,000 healthy Korean adults.
- Having high variability in these numbers was linked with a higher risk of death, stroke, and heart attack.
Repeatedly losing and re-gaining weight may alter more than just your waistline. A study published Monday in the journal Circulation suggests that fluctuations in weight and other health metrics could raise your risk for heart attack, stroke, and death.
The study analyzed more than 6,700,000 people in the Korean National Health Insurance System who did not have diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, or a history of heart attacks at the time the study started.
All the participants had at least three medical exams between 2005 and 2012, during which doctors recorded their weight, blood sugar, blood pressure, and total cholesterol.
An average of 5.5 years later, the people with the most fluctuation in these numbers — defined as those in the upper 25% of variability — were 127% more likely to die, 43% more likely to have a heart attack, and 41% more likely to have a stroke, compared to those with stable measurements, according to an American Heart Association (AHA) statement about the research.
The study tracked participants over an average of 5.5 years.
Of course, some variability — like lowering cholesterol into a more healthy range — might be considered a good thing. So the researchers also compared participants who got more than 5% better or 5% worse on each of the different health metrics.
But in both groups — even the improved group — that high level of variability was still associated with a significantly higher risk of death, the AHA statement added.
This is the first study to suggest that this type of variability can negatively impact healthy people, according to the statement. But it does echo a study published last year, which found that weight fluctuation doubled the risk of heart attack, stroke, or death in people who already had heart disease.
It's important to note that the new study was only observational. It didn't prove that these variationscauseda higher risk of heart attacks, stroke, and death — it only identified a link between them. This study also didn't examine the reasons why the participants' health metrics changed.
But there are still some key takeaways.
Researchers measured changes in blood pressure, an important gauge of heart health. Lucy Nicholson/Reuters
Dr. Nieca Goldberg, an AHA expert and director of the New York University Women's Health program, said it's important not just to achieve health improvements, but tomaintainthem.
"People need stable improvements," she told INSIDER. "I always think a good message for people is to stick to the diet and exercise programs they're oftentimes prescribed to control weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Because if you don't do it, then you lose the improvement. And the same could be said for medications when they're prescribed."
Read more:The biggest reason people fail at diets, according to a dietitian
Doctors should also be on the lookout for fluctuations in their patients, Dr. Seung-Hwan Lee, one of the study authors, said in the AHA statement.
"Trying to stabilize these measurements may be an important step in helping them improve their health," he said.
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