Link between excess weight and heart disease significant

Scientific literature worldwide shows that excess body weight is clearly linked to cardiovascular disease according to a report jointly released today by the National Heart Foundation of Australia and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

In particular, the literature reviewed shows evidence of an association between overweight and obesity and coronary heart disease (heart attack and angina) in adults. It also shows an association between overweight and obesity and cardiovascular disease in young to middle aged adults, although not necessarily in older people.

Dr Lyn Roberts, Chief Executive Officer of the National Heart Foundation of Australia said, 'This report is saying that the evidence linking excess weight and heart disease is consistent and statistically significant across a wide range of the highest-quality studies which have made every effort possible to minimise measurement bias and a whole range of other confounding variables.

'In fact the AIHW authors looked at over 270 sources of clinical and statistical work worldwide, and what they have come up with is strong and should contribute to current debates on obesity and health,' Dr Roberts said.

The report, The Relationship Between Overweight, Obesity and Cardiovascular Disease, also shows evidence of an association between excess body weight and risk factors for heart disease such as atherosclerosis (fatty and fibrous deposits in arteries), high blood pressure, high total blood cholesterol, and Type 2 diabetes, particularly with central adiposity (fat around the middle).

Dr Roberts said that the findings were important because of growing awareness of the obesity epidemic in Australia, and because cardiovascular disease remained Australia's biggest killer and largest health problem. Currently around 2.6 million Australians aged 25 and over are obese and cardiovascular disease (CVD) affects an estimated 3.7 million Australians, or around 1 in 5 people.

This report is part of a body of work undertaken by the National Heart Foundation of Australia to address overweight, obesity and CVD in Australia and demonstrates the importance of achieving a healthy body weight to reduce CVD risk.

Other findings in the literature reviewed included:

  • there was moderate evidence linking overweight and obesity and ischaemic stroke;
  • there is a lack of information on excess weight and CVD for 'at risk' populations such as Indigenous Australians and people from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

2 December 2004


Further information: Dr Lyn Roberts, NHFA (contact Donna Le Page, tel. 0412 797 937)
For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1032.