Context: Abundant evidence links overweight and obesity with impaired health. However, controversies persist as to whether overweight and obesity have additional impact on cardiovascular outcomes independent of their strong associations with established coronary risk factors, eg, high blood pressure and high cholesterol level.
Objective: To assess the relation of midlife body mass index with morbidity and mortality outcomes in older age among individuals without and with other major risk factors at baseline.
Design: Chicago Heart Association Detection Project in Industry study, a prospective study with baseline (1967-1973) cardiovascular risk classified as low risk (blood pressure < or =120/< or =80 mm Hg, serum total cholesterol level <200 mg/dL [5.2 mmol/L], and not currently smoking); moderate risk (nonsmoking and systolic blood pressure 121-139 mm Hg, diastolic blood pressure 81-89 mm Hg, and/or total cholesterol level 200-239 mg/dL [5.2-6.2 mmol/L]); or having any 1, any 2, or all 3 of the following risk factors: blood pressure > or =140/90 mm Hg, total cholesterol level > or =240 mg/dL (6.2 mmol/L), and current cigarette smoking. Body mass index was classified as normal weight (18.5-24.9), overweight (25.0-29.9), or obese (> or =30). Mean follow-up was 32 years.
Setting and participants: Participants were 17,643 men and women aged 31 through 64 years, recruited from Chicago-area companies or organizations and free of coronary heart disease (CHD), diabetes, or major electrocardiographic abnormalities at baseline.
Main outcome measures: Hospitalization and mortality from CHD, cardiovascular disease, or diabetes, beginning at age 65 years.
Results: In multivariable analyses that included adjustment for systolic blood pressure and total cholesterol level, the odds ratio (95% confidence interval) for CHD death for obese participants compared with those of normal weight in the same risk category was 1.43 (0.33-6.25) for low risk and 2.07 (1.29-3.31) for moderate risk; for CHD hospitalization, the corresponding results were 4.25 (1.57-11.5) for low risk and 2.04 (1.29-3.24) for moderate risk. Results were similar for other risk groups and for cardiovascular disease, but stronger for diabetes (eg, low risk: 11.0 [2.21-54.5] for mortality and 7.84 [3.95-15.6] for hospitalization).
Conclusion: For individuals with no cardiovascular risk factors as well as for those with 1 or more risk factors, those who are obese in middle age have a higher risk of hospitalization and mortality from CHD, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes in older age than those who are normal weight.