Obesity and Heart Treatment (11-30-2006) 

Study explains "obesity paradox" in heart treatment

At the American Heart Association annual meeting in Chicago (Wed. Nov 15, 2006), a study showed that heavier patients with clogged heart arteries have lower death rates in the short term than their leaner counterparts because they get more aggressive treatment.

The analysis of 130,139 patients found that heavier patients did better because doctors were more likely to follow standard treatment guidelines, including performing surgeries like angioplasty, which may improve their outcomes.

According to the study's author, Benjamin Steinberg of Johns Hopkins University, this "obesity paradox" could occur because doctors might be more willing to perform invasive treatments on overweight patients who tend to be younger.

Coronary artery disease, a build up of fatty deposits in the cells lining the wall of the artery that blocks blood flow is the number one cause of death in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health.

"So while we need to focus on reducing the rates of obesity, we have to be mindful that other patients deserve just as aggressive treatment."

The percentage of overweight young people in the United States has roughly tripled since 1980 to 16 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.