Fresh research has uncovered a concerning trend: the longer an individual carries excess weight, the greater their risk of experiencing a stroke or heart attack. This discovery emerged from a collaborative effort involving researchers from Harvard and pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, presented at the recent Endocrine Society’s Annual Meeting.

The study focused on individuals with a BMI exceeding 25, indicative of being overweight. Utilizing data from two extensive research projects, namely the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, researchers analyzed information from 109,259 women and 27,239 men. Among them, 8.8% had encountered a cardiac event between 2000 and 2020.

For men under 65 and women under 50, maintaining excess weight for a decade or longer correlated with a 25-60% rise in cardiovascular events like strokes or heart attacks. However, these associations did not hold true for women over 50 and men over 65, with no data available for men under 35. Notably, this study awaits publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Cardiologist Matthew I. Tomey, MD, from the Mount Sinai Fuster Heart Hospital, emphasized that these findings underscore the importance of early intervention by healthcare professionals. He highlighted the need to address modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease at a younger age, stressing the significance of proactive efforts to mitigate risks.

Alexander Turchin, MD, MS, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, believes that this study’s insights could prompt individuals to take proactive steps toward improving their health. He emphasized that excess weight at any point does not determine one’s fate, emphasizing the potential for positive health outcomes through weight reduction and minimizing exposure to excess weight over time.

Philip Nimoityn, MD, a clinical assistant professor at Thomas Jefferson University, echoed the sentiment, suggesting that the updated focus on maintaining optimal heart health aligns with contemporary guidance. He emphasized the importance of intervening early to reduce future disease risks, citing advancements in medications targeting cardiovascular inflammation.

While acknowledging the limitations of BMI as a health marker, experts caution against dismissing its relevance. While not perfect, BMI remains a widely accessible indicator of health status, though Michelle Routhenstein, MS, RD, owner of Entirely Nourished, advocates for a more comprehensive approach to cardiac health beyond weight considerations.

These insights underscore the importance of early intervention and ongoing efforts to maintain heart health, emphasizing the need for a multifaceted approach to address cardiovascular risks.