Teens with High BMIs at Greater Risk of Mid-Life Death from Certain Cardiovascular Diseases

Teens with higher BMIs (body mass index), including those who fall in the upper end of the accepted normal range, may be at greater risk of death in mid-adulthood from less common types of cardiovascular diseases, according to a new 45-year Israeli study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

The large-scale study shows that higher-BMI teens are at greater risk of developing non-coronary, non-stroke cardiovascular diseases, including fatal arrhythmia, hypertensive heart disease, cardiomyopathy, arterial disease, heart failure, and pulmonary embolism in middle adulthood.

The findings are important because although research has shown a strong link between adolescent overweight/obesity and coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke, less was known about the association between body mass index (BMI) and these less common types of cardiovascular diseases.

And while CHD and stroke mortality of adults under 50 years of age has declined in most western countries in the last two decades, non-CHD and non-stroke deaths have actually increased.

“Overweight and obesity at adolescence were tightly associated with increased risk for all study outcomes. The range of normal BMI is relatively broad and we also found here that adolescents with BMI at the high-normal end had higher risk than those in the low-normal end,” said one of the study’s authors, Gilad Twig, M.D., Ph.D. of the Medical Corps of the Israel Defense Forces.

For the study, researchers from the Israel Defense Forces, Sheba Medical Center and Hadassah Medical School in Israel analyzed data collected from 2,294,139 teens aged 16-19 in 1967 and followed them until 2011.

Between 1981 and 2011, a total of 32,137 participant had died; 800 of these were attributed to non-coronary, non-stroke cardiovascular deaths, whereas 3,178 deaths were attributed to cardiovascular mortality in total.

Obesity, the most common nutritional disorder in industrialized countries, is associated with an increased mortality and morbidity of cardiovascular disease. This study specifically looked at adolescent BMI and death attributed to cardiovascular diseases other than CHD and stroke.

“Our findings show that adolescents with BMI values well within the currently accepted normal range may still be at future risk of cardiovascular diseases,” said Twig. “This is important because while CHD and stroke mortality of adults younger than 50 have declined in most western countries in the last two decades, non-CHD and non-stroke mortality has increased.”

“Data shows that ‘optimal’ BMI for 17 years old is at the low-normal range,” Twig said. “Additional studies are needed to confirm these results in order to re-visit the currently accepted BMI range in adolescents.”

Source: The Endocrine Society