A new study reveals the benefits of being overweight in the event of a stroke
Stroke patients who are overweight or obese die less often and suffer fewer disabilities than those with an ideal body weight. This is revealed by a new study that was undertaken in cooperation with the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and published in the European Heart Journal*. This seemingly contradictory correlation, which is also known as the obesity paradox, has been observed in the past in association with other chronic conditions such as heart failure. This newly published study demonstrates for the first time that the obesity paradox also holds true with strokes.
In their study, the researchers investigated the relationship between body weight and the consequences of a stroke. They found out that overweight individuals are more likely to survive a stroke and suffer fewer disabilities and require less care than people of normal weight after having a stroke. The risk of actually having a stroke in the first place is, however, higher for overweight people than for those of normal weight, although overweight individuals who have already suffered a stroke are by no means more at risk of having another stroke. Prof. Wolfram Döhner from the Center for Stroke Research Berlin at the Charité is lead author of the study. He states: “This realisation is new for stroke patients. All of the treatment guidelines in Germany, Europe and the USA have hitherto recommended that patients who are overweight or obese lose weight after suffering a first stroke. These recommendations are, however, based on expert opinions that rely solely on knowledge gained from primary prevention because actual data concerning this matter have not yet been collected.” According to the current study, underweight individuals are most severely affected by a stroke. Compared to people of supposed ideal weight, the risk of overweight people dying from a stroke is 14 percent less. In the case of obese patients, the mortality risk is reduced by 24 to 45 percent.
The researchers consider the results of this study to be a stark contrast to the common recommendation given to patients to lose weight after a first stroke. According to Prof. Döhner, the insight gained from the research work “only goes against the grain of the mantra of slimness that we have hammered home as a universal health guarantee”. He goes on to example that “weight management should, however, be differently assessed for individuals with existing illnesses”. Data taken from 1,521 patients in a multicentre stroke study conducted from 2003 to 2005 were evaluated in this study. According to the criteria set by the World Health Organisation, anybody with a body mass index (BMI) of between 18.5 and 25 is considered to have a normal body weight.
* Doehner, Wolfram; Schenkel, Johannes; Anker, Stefan D.; Springer, Jochen; Audebert, Heinrich J. 2012. Overweight and obesity are associated with improved survival, functional outcome, and stroke recurrence after acute stroke or transient ischaemic attack: observations from the TEMPiS trial. In: European Heart Journal Advance Access, doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehs340.
Prof. Wolfram Döhner
Centrum für Schlaganfallforschung Berlin
t: +49 30 450 553 507
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