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Study: Obesity-related cardiovascular deaths are on the rise; signal an alarming trend

AAtlantic Gastroenterology in Brooklyn, New York, we understand that knowledge is power. Our board-certified gastroenterologist, Dr. Alexander Shapsis, stays on top of the latest research and scientific findings. We know that new, objective data from credible resources can potentially inform how we partner with patients to minimize their disease risks, successfully manage and treat existing symptoms and conditions, and protect against dire health complications. 

Obesity Linked to Heart Disease in Brooklyn NY Area

Findings featured in the Journal of the American Heart Association have big implications for the many (and rising) number of adults in the United States living with obesity linked to heart disease. 

The study

Researchers affiliated, partly with Queen Mary University of London, looked at 281,000-plus cardiovascular deaths between 1999 and 2020. These deaths were all unified in their contributing cause: obesity.

They also took a deeper dive into additional contributing characteristics, ranging from race and gender to whether their homes were in rural or urban areas. 


The study found that obesity-linked heart disease deaths more than tripled in the U.S. over the 21-year timespan. Additionally, researchers found that some populations were more vulnerable than others. Notably, black adults (women in particular) had the highest rates of such cardiac deaths, followed by American Indian and Alaska Native adults. Blacks in urban areas had higher mortality than those in rural areas, but the reverse is true for all of the other racial groups analyzed by the research team. 

Overall, mortality rates jumped from 2.2 to 6.6 (out of every 100,000 individuals) over the 20-plus-year timeframe. Interestingly, the rate of cardiac deaths unrelated to obesity decreased during the same timeframe. 

What this study means

The study represents the first of its kind to demonstrate how the increasing burden of obesity is translating into increased fatalities from heart disease. The study also highlights the role social factors or “determinants of health” play in mortality rates. These determinants include joblessness, income levels, and the lack of access to both health care and affordable, nutritious foods. The report also isolates racial and urban/rural disparities, with clinicians further surmising that the effects of the pandemic only fueled already rising levels of obesity.

The research underlines the need for targeted, proactive public health programming designed to reverse such eye-opening patterns through measures focused on healthy eating and consistent exercise and physical activity. These findings further spotlighted the need for greater attention toward the rising heart disease-related complications associated with more significant numbers of obese Americans – akin to how, traditionally, there has been a focus on near-term risks of developing conditions like pre-diabetes and diabetes among overweight individuals.

The American Heart Association reports that ~42% of adults are obese. This reflects an increase of 10% over the past decade. Furthermore, heart disease is among the most alarming of those “downstream” complications of obesity. Since it takes decades for the condition to develop, there are opportunities for successful interventions.

The deaths analyzed in this study were primarily attributed to arteriosclerosis, heart attacks, and hypertension-related conditions. More information about the study can be found here. And, of course, Atlantic Gastroenterology in Brooklyn, NY, welcomes your questions. Call us at 718 521-2840 today.

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