Extra Pounds Increase Stroke Risk

Obese women have thicker carotid artery walls, study finds

THURSDAY, Nov. 14, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Obese, middle-age women have thicker carotid artery walls, putting them at greater risk for stroke.

That's the disturbing conclusion of a study in tomorrow's online issue of Stroke.

The carotid arteries are in the neck and supply blood to the brain.

The link between obesity and thickening of the arteries -- called atherosclerosis -- has been uncertain and controversial, says study lead author Dr. Paolo Rubba, director of the clinical unit for vascular medicine at Federico II University in Naples, Italy.

He and his colleagues studied whether overall obesity and obesity in the abdomen were associated with carotid artery thickening.

They examined data from an ongoing study of chronic disease in 5,000 middle-age women living in southern Italy. People in the area have high rates of obesity and of being overweight due to lifestyle factors that include high intake of calories and animal fat and little exercise.

The researchers focused on a subset of 310 people who had ultrasound tests to determine the thickness of the intima-media, which is the lining and middle muscle layers of the carotid artery.

The researchers also compared the subjects' body mass index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio -- both of which are obesity indicators -- to carotid artery health.

The study found a significant association between obesity and carotid artery wall thickness, even after controlling for other risk factors such as age, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Lean women (23 BMI) had an average inter-media thickness (IMT) of 0.94 millimeters, overweight women (27.2 BMI) had an average IMT of 0.98 mm, and obese women (33.8 BMI) had an average IMT of 1.02 mm.

The findings suggest doctors need to encourage overweight patients to lose weight to reduce the risk of stroke, the authors say.

More information

Learn more about stroke at the American Stroke Association.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Nov. 14, 2002
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