Public Release: 

Weight gain found to be harder on the heart than maintaining higher weight

Northwestern Memorial cardiologist presents findings on CARDIA study today at AHA's Annual Meeting

Northwestern Memorial HealthCare

Gaining 15 pounds or more over several years puts people at greater jeopardy of developing risk factors for heart disease than maintaining a stable weight - even a stable weight that is considered obese, according to a study authored by Donald Lloyd-Jones, M.D., a cardiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and assistant professor of preventive medicine and of medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. Dr. Lloyd-Jones presented the findings from a study titled Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) today at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions.

"This study points out the dangers of weight gain - weight gain is the major contributor to the progression of risk factors and the development of metabolic syndrome," said Dr. Lloyd-Jones. The study followed nearly 2,500 men and women initially aged 18 to 30 over 15 years. Approximately 82 percent of the study's participants gained 15 pounds or more over the 15 years they were followed. Nearly 1 in 5 in this "gain" group developed metabolic syndrome - a group of metabolic risk factors that are indicators that an individual is at increased risk of developing heart disease, stroke or diabetes. Less than 4 percent in the stable weight group had metabolic syndrome by the end of the study.

Metabolic syndrome is characterized by unhealthy traits such as excessive belly fat, high cholesterol and other blood-fat disorders, insulin resistance, glucose intolerance or diabetes, and either a high normal blood pressure or hypertension. The syndrome has been linked to obesity, physical inactivity, and genetic factors - and now weight gain. A recent study found that people with at least three factors for metabolic syndrome had a 65 percent greater risk of coronary heart disease death compared to people who did not have metabolic syndrome, diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

"Weight gain is a nearly universal phenomenon in our society today. Greater public health efforts should be aimed at weight stabilization over the long term," said Dr. Lloyd-Jones. "I tell my patients that their best defense is decreasing the amount they eat and increasing their physical activity."

The CARDIA Study is an ongoing study of cardiovascular risk factor development in young adults that is funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.


About Northwestern Memorial Hospital

Northwestern Memorial Hospital (NMH) is one of the country's premier academic medical centers and is the primary teaching hospital of Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. Northwestern Memorial and its Prentice Women's Hospital and Stone Institute of Psychiatry have 744 beds and more than 1,200 affiliated physicians and 5,000 employees. Providing state-of-the-art care, NMH is recognized for its outstanding clinical and surgical advancements in such areas as cardiothoracic and vascular care, gastroenterology, neurology and neurosurgery, oncology, organ and bone marrow transplantation, and women's health.

Northwestern Memorial was ranked as the nation's 5th best hospital by the 2002 Consumer Checkbook survey of the nation's physicians and is listed in eight specialties in this year's US News & World Report's issue of "America's Best Hospitals." NMH is also cited as one of the "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers" by Working Mother magazine and has been chosen by Chicagoans year after year as their "most preferred hospital" in National Research Corporation's annual survey.

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