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The Link Between Obesity and Stroke

The Link Between Obesity and Stroke

While it has long been suspected that being overweight could potentially increase one’s chances of having a stroke, a Brigham & Women's Hospital study offers some of the first solid evidence to support this link.

Through his South Florida practice, Advanced Heart and Vascular Associates, cardiovascular physician Nadder Chadda, MD, specializes in vascular intervention, including stroke prevention. Did you know that you can slash your stroke risk by as much as 80% with lifestyle changes? Obesity is an emerging risk factor for stroke. Read on to learn how carrying excess weight hikes your chances of stroke. 

Stroke fast facts

A stroke can have devastating consequences. It occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain is greatly diminished or blocked completely, starving brain tissue of necessary nutrients. Here are some fast facts you should know about stroke.

Stroke is preventable. Making the transition to a healthy lifestyle can greatly reduce your risk.

The cardiovascular burden of obesity

Obesity puts a significant strain on nearly every system in your body, including your heart and blood vessels. We now know that obesity more than doubles your stroke risk. This risk is independent of other factors. Here’s what we’ve learned about how weight impacts your risk of stroke.

The Physicians’ Health Study

The Physicians’ Health Study cemented the link between obesity and stroke. For 12 years, researchers followed more than 21,000 physicians who had their weight recorded. Researchers found that men with a BMI of 30 or higher had double the likelihood of having a stroke, compared with men with a healthy weight.

What’s more, the analysis showed that for every 7.4 pounds of weight gain above a healthy weight, stroke risk increases by 6 percent. While the Physicians’ Health Study included only male participants, the link between obesity and stroke is also found in women

Even more alarming, higher BMI in adolescence is strongly linked to a significantly higher risk of stroke in adulthood. Previous research has confirmed the link between obesity and heart disease, and now there’s no longer a debate about the association between obesity and stroke. 

How does obesity increase stroke risk?

Obesity is more than a cosmetic issue. The underlying factors in obesity contribute to the development of atherosclerosis, which involves the buildup of fatty substances in the arteries. 

When too much fat circulates in your blood, it sticks to artery walls over time, creating a hardened plaque that causes blood vessels to stiffen and narrow. This sets the stage for a potential blockage that can have catastrophic consequences, such as stroke.

Additionally, excess fat increases inflammation, which also contributes to the development of atherosclerosis.

Even if you have a family history of cardiovascular disease, your genetics don’t have the final say. Targeted lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, exercising, eating a heart-healthy diet, and avoiding smoking can have a dramatic impact on lowering your stroke risk, and we’re here to help. 

To discuss your cardiovascular health, call our office to schedule a consultation with Dr. Chadda. We have offices in Hudson, Brooksville, and Land O’ Lakes, Florida. Another option is to book online. We offer in-person and telehealth appointments to meet all of your cardiovascular needs.

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