Obese men face a dramatically higher risk of dying from a heart attack, regardless of whether or not they have other known risk factors for cardiovascular disease, a new study reveals.
The finding stems from an analysis involving roughly 6,000 middle-aged men, and it suggests that there is something about carrying around excess weight that contributes to heart disease independent of risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and arterial disease.
What exactly that something is, however, remains unclear, although the researchers suggest that the chronic inflammation that typically accompanies significant weight gain might be the driving force behind the increased risk.
"Obese, middle-aged men have a 60 percent increased risk of dying from a heart attack than non-obese middle-aged men, even after we cancel out any of the effects of cholesterol, blood pressure and other cardiovascular risk factors," noted study author Jennifer Logue, a clinical lecturer of metabolic medicine with the British Heart Foundation's Cardiovascular Research Centre at the University of Glasgow, in Scotland. "This means [that] obesity itself may be causing fatal heart attacks through a factor that we have not yet identified."
Logue and her colleagues report their observations in the Feb. 15 online issue of Heart.
To explore the subject, the authors spent nearly 15 years tracking 6,082 male patients who were diagnosed with high cholesterol but had no history of either heart disease or diabetes.
Over the study period, the research team noted 214 heart disease fatalities, along with another 1,027 heart attacks and/or strokes that did not result in death.
The team confirmed the well-established theory that being obese is linked to a greater chance for having all of the classic risk factors linked to heart disease.
That said, even after ruling out relevant variables such as age and smoking history, the risk of death among obese men -- those with a body mass index (BMI) between 30 and 39.9 -- was still 75 percent higher than it was for non-obese men.
What's more, even after also accounting for risk factors such as high blood pressure and diabetes (as well as medication history), the chance of experiencing a fatal heart attack was 60 percent greater among obese men, as compared with non-obese men.