washingtonpost.com  > Health > Condition Center > Heart Conditions

Fitness Over Thinness for Hearts

But Another Study Cites Diabetes Risk for Overweight Women

By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 8, 2004; Page A03

Being fit appears to be far more important than being thin for decreasing the risk of heart disease, while the opposite seems to be the case for diabetes, according to two new studies in women.

One study of more than 900 women with chest pain found that those who were unfit were much more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those who were overweight. But the other, a study of more than 37,000 healthy nurses, found that being fit did little to reduce the huge risk that overweight women face of developing diabetes.


A study of more than 900 women with chest pain found that those who were unfit were more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those who were overweight. One researcher said women "need to be out increasing . . . fitness level and getting back into shape, not just dropping pounds." (James M. Thresher -- The Washington Post)

_____Health Calculators_____
How do your meals add up? Calculate calories at fast-food restaurants and check your body fat.
Calorie Counter
Body Mass Index

_____Sally Squires_____
Past Lean Plate Club Columns
Lean Plate Club Discussion Transcripts
_____Obesity_____
Fit Beats Thin, in a Heartbeat (The Washington Post, Sep 14, 2004)
Genes, Biology Important in Obesity Fight (Associated Press, Sep 10, 2004)
Genes, Biology Important in Obesity Fight (Associated Press, Sep 10, 2004)
Genes, Biology Important in Obesity Fight (Associated Press, Sep 10, 2004)
Demand for Stomach-Altering Surgery Rises (Associated Press, Sep 8, 2004)
More Stories

The new studies, published in today's Journal of the American Medical Association, rekindled an intense debate over the relative risks and benefits of being overweight vs. thin, fit vs. unfit.

"The public is going to throw up its hands in exasperation and say: 'I can't get a straight story from you scientists. You're telling me to lose weight. You're telling me to exercise. You're telling me that it doesn't make any difference if I exercise. You're saying it doesn't make any difference to lose weight,' " said Arthur Frank, an obesity expert at George Washington University. "But no one is really saying that. The real answer is: 'You should do both.' "

The seemingly conflicting findings may be the result of the different diseases and populations of women that were studied, with weight perhaps playing a greater role in diabetes and fitness possibly more important for heart disease, Frank and others said.

"Although closely linked, they are different diseases, and it may be the relative importance of different risk factors will vary between them," said Lawrence J. Cheskin, director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center. "The bottom line still is it would be wisest to assume that both body weight and body fat distribution and fitness are risk factors for both diabetes and heart disease."

With the number of Americans who are overweight and obese increasing rapidly, public health authorities have been warning that the nation is facing a major public health crisis. But some researchers have been arguing that the health risks of being overweight have been exaggerated, and that a growing body of evidence suggests that being sedentary and unfit is a far greater problem.

In the first new study, researchers examined 906 women participating in the Women's Ischemia Syndrome Evaluation (WISE) study.

On average, women who were deemed unfit based on their activity levels were significantly more likely to have blocked arteries at the beginning of the study and to go on to suffer a heart attack, stroke or some other serious cardiovascular problem over the next four years, the researchers found.

Those who were overweight but relatively fit did not have a significantly elevated risk once researchers accounted for other risk factors, such as diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure.


CONTINUED    1 2    Next >

© 2004 The Washington Post Company


  • 

Clinical Trials Center


  •  Cosmetic & Beauty Services

  •  Hospitals & Clinics

  •  Men's Health Care

  •  Women's Health Care