Will you have a heart attack? Here’s why your waistline holds the answer

SINGAPORE — Obesity is becoming a major health concern in countries around the world. For those who are overweight or obese, studies show that the risk of heart problems increases with this added weight. In Singapore, researchers project that the number of heart attacks will increase almost three-fold between 2025 and 2050, reaching 1,418 per 100,000 people. With that in mind, a new study explains that obesity will soon become the main risk factor associated with heart attacks and heart-related deaths.

A team from the National University of Singapore used data from the Singapore Myocardial Infarction Registry (SMIR) from January 2007 to December 2018 to project the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), hypertension, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), overweight/obesity, and cigarette smokers among populations suffering a heart attack or a heart attack-related death. They also critically analyzed age, sex, and ethnicity.

In Singapore, obesity is expected to become the top metabolic risk factor linked to the onset of these heart problems by 2050, growing by 880 percent. It’s projected to even surpass hypertension and hyperlipidemia as the leading risk factor.

For every 100,000 people who might have a heart attack in 2050, 3,764 of them are likely to be overweight or obese compared to just 384 per 100,000 in 2025. This increase is startling and is also expected to disproportionally impact women who are overweight or obese by over 13 times (1,204.7%) by 2050. Additionally, a significant increase in cases is projected among Malaysians, according to the researchers.

obesity obese man belly fat
(Photo by Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash)

With regards to mortality, overweight/obesity-related cases are expected to increase four-fold, which is contrary to the declining trends linked with other risk factors like diabetes, hypertension, and smoking. Most significantly, Malaysian people are still expected to experience the largest increase over time, rising five-fold. Indians follow this demographic, with a three and a half-fold increase.

These figures can be a bit demoralizing, but there is good news. The researchers say that the fast trajectory is preventable by implementing early detection and treatment of subclinical diseases in the groups that need it most. National programs that emphasize heart health can also be pivotal for changing the direction of obesity-related heart attacks and deaths.

“We have to move away from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to address challenges faced by groups at risk of AMI-onset and mortality. For example, the rise in obesity as a risk factor for metabolic disease morbidity is more predominant in younger and middle-age groups, whereas metabolic disease mortality for older populations is driven by hypertension and hyperlipidemia. This necessitates differentiated interventions,” says lead author Dr. Nicholas Chew in a media release.

The insight from this study has the potential to be of enormous value, not only for improving effective efforts within Singapore, but for helping enhance global responses to heart and metabolic diseases as well.

The findings are published in The Lancet.

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