Study explains "obesity paradox" in heart treatment

obese manCHICAGO (Reuters) - Heavier patients with clogged heart arteries have lower death rates in the short term than their leaner counterparts because they get more aggressive treatment, a study said on Wednesday.

This so-called obesity paradox could occur because overweight patients were younger and doctors might be more willing to perform invasive treatments on them, said the study's author, Benjamin Steinberg, a visiting medical student at Johns Hopkins University.

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.

"The curve for mortality continued to trend down from lightest weight to heaviest weight; we would have expected to see a "U" shape with normal weight doing better," Steinberg said. His study was presented at the American Heart Association annual meeting in Chicago.

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

Fewer of the obese and overweight patients in the study died while in the hospital: 3.1 percent of overweight, 2.4 percent of obese and 5.4 percent of normal-weight patients.

"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," he said.

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.

On Sunday, a study at the heart association meeting found that kids are showing signs of narrowing and hardening of the arteries, conditions normally associated with adults.

source - Reuters