The paradox of obesity in patients with heart failure

J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2005 Dec;17(12):542-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7599.2005.00084.x.


Purpose: Heart failure (HF) patients often have comorbid conditions that confound management and adversely affect prognosis. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the obesity paradox is also present in hospitalized HF patients in an integrated healthcare system.

Data sources: A cohort of 2707 patients with a primary diagnosis of HF was identified within an integrated, 20-hospital healthcare system. Patients were identified by ICD-9 codes or a left ventricular ejection fraction < or =40% dating back to 1995. Body mass index (BMI) was calculated using the first measured height and weight when hospitalized with HF. Survival rates were calculated using Kaplan Meier estimation. Hazard ratios for 3-year mortality with 95% confidence intervals were assessed using Cox regression, controlling for age, gender, and severity of illness at time of diagnosis.

Conclusions: Three-year survival rates paradoxically improved for patients with increasing BMI. Survival rates for the larger three BMI quartiles were significantly better than for the lowest quartile after adjusting for severity of illness, age, and gender.

Implications for practice: While obesity increases the risk of developing HF approximately twofold, reports involving stable outpatients suggest that obesity is associated with improved survival after the development of HF. This finding is paradoxical because obesity increases the risk and worsens the prognosis of other cardiovascular diseases.

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Comorbidity
  • Confounding Factors, Epidemiologic
  • Heart Failure / complications*
  • Heart Failure / diagnosis
  • Heart Failure / mortality*
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Inpatients / statistics & numerical data
  • Malnutrition / etiology
  • Multi-Institutional Systems
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / diagnosis
  • Obesity / mortality*
  • Prognosis
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stroke Volume
  • Survival Analysis
  • Survival Rate
  • Utah / epidemiology
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Left / etiology