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Coronary Disease Risk Rises the Longer One is Obese

Update Date: Jul 17, 2013 03:29 PM EDT

Obesity is a worldwide problem that leads to several health complications and extra medical care costs for both the individual and the country. In order to prevent obesity or at least control it, numerous studies have been done to find evidence of the detrimental side effects of being overweight or obese, hoping these statistics and data can help persuade people to get moving. In a new study, researchers found that the longer a person remains obese, the higher the risk of coronary disease gets.

For this study, the research team evaluated data on around 3,300 white and African American adults. The adults were followed for 25 years and they were between the ages of 18 and 30 when they first joined the study that started in the mid-1980s. None of the participants were obese at the start of the study Data included body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, smoking, diet, exercise level, cholesterol, blood pressure and any type two diabetes diagnosis. Within 15, 20 and 25 years into the study, participants also underwent CT scans to check for hardened plague called coronary artery calcification. At the end of the study, over 40 percent became obese and 41 percent developed abdominal obesity, which is characterized by excess belly fat.

The researchers found that for every year that the adults were obese, it translated to an increase of two to four percent in hardened plague. This meant that the longer people were obese, the higher their risk of coronary disease became. On top of that, researchers also found that the longer people were obese, the greater the risks of getting high blood pressure and high cholesterol were. People who were obese for a longer duration also had higher rates of type two diabetes and were more likely to have been prescribed lipid-lowering drugs.

The results are alarming because the rates of childhood obesity and young adult obesity have been rising. With more young adults becoming obese and most likely staying obese for the next decades, more health complications could arise in the next generation.

"This is important because with the obesity epidemic people are becoming obese at a younger age than in previous generations, and they are spending a longer period of their life with obesity," says the study's lead author Jared Reis, an epidemiologist in the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's division of cardiovascular sciences according to USA Today. "This is one of the first studies to show that a longer duration of obesity independently contributes to hardened plaque in the arteries, which is sometimes called silent heart disease because there are no symptoms."

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association

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