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Underweight Women At a Greater Risk of Death from CAD

Update Date: Sep 03, 2013 04:32 PM EDT

People often believe that overweight and obese people are at a higher risk of death in comparison to slimmer people. Even though this belief is true to a certain extent since obesity leads to several other health complications, being slim does not save one from health related deaths. In a new study, researchers looked at women with coronary artery disease (CAD) with the goal of evaluating the effects of weight changes over time. They discovered that underweight women are at a greater risk of death from CAD.

"The increasing prevalence of obesity is concerning because it is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, early death and other diseases like diabetes mellitus type 2, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. To our knowledge until now the impact of weight change on risk of death in women with CAD has not been studied," Dr. Aziza Azimi said according to a press release.

For this study, Azimi and her colleagues looked at 1,685 women who were already diagnosed with CAD. The average age of the women was 64 and the data was compiled from 2005 to 2011. The data on the participants' CAD was acquired via a coronary angiography. The participants' body weight was taken from anesthesiology and coronary angiography records. The researchers categorized weight changes into three groups, which were no weight change, weight gain or weight loss. Weight gain or loss was defined as gaining or losing more than 4.4 pounds per year. The researchers also categorized body weight based on body mass index (BMI) into four groups, which were underweight, normal weight, overweight and obese. The participants were followed for six years.

After accounting for age, smoking habit, diabetes, previous heart surgery, past coronary intervention, the use of statins and anti-hypertension medications and the degree of the severity of CAD, the researchers found that weight changes over time did affect mortality rates. For obese women with CAD, when they maintained their weight, their risk of death decreased. For women of normal weight, gaining or losing weight did not affect their mortality rates. For underweight women, the researchers discovered that even when they maintained their weight, their risk of death doubled.

"Weight maintenance decreased the risk of death in obese women with CAD. Obese women are more likely to be treated early with statins, antihypertensive or diabetes drugs, and this may reduce their risk. Weight management should be individual due to their medical condition," Azimi said. "Weight maintenance or weight loss seems to increase the risk of death in underweight women with CAD. Our findings suggest that these women should gain weight in order to reduce their risk of death."

The study's findings were presented at the ESC (European Society of Cardiology) Congress.

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