Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Obesity Paradox

In honour of Heart Month, I thought I would expose "The Obesity Paradox". For starters, it's a real term, and while the outcome seems odd, I'm not sure I'd want to gamble with my life.

Let's start with the facts:

To define 'overweight' or 'obese', physicians/specialists use the Body Mass Index (BMI) scorecard. BMI is a statistical measurement, which takes a person’s weight and divides it by their height squared. [BMI = mass/(height)2] The resulting number is then applied to a graph which outlines whether a person is underweight (<18.5),> 30); it does not indicate a person’s percentage of body fat.

2004 Statistic Canada numbers showed that 36% of Canadians age 18 and over were ‘overweight’, and 23% are ‘obese’. Put those two numbers together and you have 59% of Canadians flouting around some excess baggage. The Heart & Stroke Foundation’s 2010 Annual Report dubs this "The Perfect Storm" highlighting the mere fact that we’re not getting any better at controlling our lifestyle. (The report also indicates other factors, but one certainly can’t ignore the ‘weight’ of Canadians.)

In a rather long-named Special Report released by the Canadian Cardiovascular Society (CCS) indicates that for each single unit increase in BMI greater than 25, the risk of heart failure increases by 5% in men, and 7% in women.

Enter the Obesity Paradox: According to the aforementioned CCS Special Report, once heart failure has become present in patients, subjects with a higher BMI are actually at a decreased risk of death and hospitalization compared to their lower scoring BMI peers. However, those higher scoring BMI patients with heart failure who went on to lose weight showed improved heart health.

One could read into this that those who choose to life an overweight lifestyle are given an opportunity to right the wrong, and lose the weight they should have in the first place. From my vantage point, I don’t know if I’d be willing to take that risk.

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