Overweight and obesity may contribute to risk of stroke in men

May 04, 2001

PHILADELPHIA, PA - As a man's body mass index (BMI) increases, so does his risk of stroke, according to a study presented today at the American Academy of Neurology's 53rd Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, PA.

In an analysis that was adjusted for age, smoking, alcohol consumption, exercise, family history of myocardial infarction and history of angina, each unit increase of BMI was associated with a significant 6 percent increase in the risk of total stroke, with similar increases in ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke subtypes. A one unit increase in BMI means a weight gain of approximately 7.4 pounds for a 6-foot tall man and a gain of 6.2 pounds for a 5' 6" tall man.

"Obesity is a known risk factor for coronary heart disease," comments study author Tobias Kurth, MD, MSc, of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "We wanted to study its role as an independent risk factor for stroke and the various subtypes of stroke, since the contribution of obesity to the risk of stroke was not as clear as it is for coronary heart disease." And with the prevalence of obesity in the United States increasing steadily in the past few decades, results of this study underscore the potential role of the prevention and treatment of obesity - a modifiable risk factor -- in reducing the risk of stroke.

The study included more than 21,000 U.S. male physicians participating in the Physicians' Health Study, age 40 to 84 in 1982, who were free from self-reported myocardial infarction, stroke, transient ischemic attacks, and cancer at the time of their enrollment in the study. Subsequent stroke occurrence was self reported through annual questionnaires and confirmed only after medical record review.

During more than 12 years of follow-up, 747 strokes occurred. The relationships between BMI and the incidence of total stroke as well as ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke subtypes were generally linear. Compared to participants with a BMI of less than 22 kg/m2, those with a BMI higher than 27.8 kg/m2 had an almost two-fold increased risk for all types of stroke.

This prospective study suggests a progressive increase in risk of total stroke and its two major subtypes with each unit increase of BMI, following a linear trend. These risks persisted after the effects of associated risk factors were taken into account.
The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 17,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research.

For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit its web site at www.aan.com.

For more information contact:
Kathy Stone, 651-695-2763,
May 5 -11, call 215-418-2420

Editor's Note: Study author Tobias Kurth, MD, will present the research at the American Academy of Neurology's 53rd Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, PA, during a platform session on Wednesday, May 9, 2001, at 1:30 p.m. in Room 201ABC, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.

American Academy of Neurology

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