Obesity and the risk of heart failure

N Engl J Med. 2002 Aug 1;347(5):305-13. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa020245.


Background: Extreme obesity is recognized to be a risk factor for heart failure. It is unclear whether overweight and lesser degrees of obesity also pose a risk.

Methods: We investigated the relation between the body-mass index (the weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in meters) and the incidence of heart failure among 5881 participants in the Framingham Heart Study (mean age, 55 years; 54 percent women). With the use of Cox proportional-hazards models, the body-mass index was evaluated both as a continuous variable and as a categorical variable (normal, 18.5 to 24.9; overweight, 25.0 to 29.9; and obese, 30.0 or more).

Results: During follow-up (mean, 14 years), heart failure developed in 496 subjects (258 women and 238 men). After adjustment for established risk factors, there was an increase in the risk of heart failure of 5 percent for men and 7 percent for women for each increment of 1 in body-mass index. As compared with subjects with a normal body-mass index, obese subjects had a doubling of the risk of heart failure. For women, the hazard ratio was 2.12 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.51 to 2.97); for men, the hazard ratio was 1.90 (95 percent confidence interval, 1.30 to 2.79). A graded increase in the risk of heart failure was observed across categories of body-mass index. The hazard ratios per increase in category were 1.46 in women (95 percent confidence interval, 1.23 to 1.72) and 1.37 in men (95 percent confidence interval, 1.13 to 1.67).

Conclusions: In our large, community-based sample, increased body-mass index was associated with an increased risk of heart failure. Given the high prevalence of obesity in the United States, strategies to promote optimal body weight may reduce the population burden of heart failure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index*
  • Echocardiography
  • Female
  • Heart Failure / diagnostic imaging
  • Heart Failure / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / classification
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Risk Factors
  • Thinness / complications