Obesity paradox in elderly patients with cardiovascular diseases

Int J Cardiol. 2012 Feb 23;155(1):56-65. doi: 10.1016/j.ijcard.2011.01.076. Epub 2011 Feb 22.


Many elderly people are affected by cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and the majority of CVD patients are elderly people. For both patient populations, studies have shown that a high body mass index (BMI) is associated with lower mortality when compared to normal weight subjects, a fact commonly known as the "obesity paradox". Whether the correlation between obesity and better survival is based on methodological influences and other non-causal factors alone, or whether there is a causal link between obesity and a better survival in these subjects remains widely unexplored. The interrelation between aging, obesity, CVD, frailty and inflammation is a current issue of intensive research. For the elderly, parameters which include measures of body composition, fat and fat-free mass are of greater importance than BMI. Weight management in elderly people with cardiovascular diseases should aim at improvement and maintenance of physical function and quality of life rather than prevention of medical problems associated with obesity in younger and middle aged patients. Although many studies have shown that weight loss in elderly patients is associated with a poor prognosis, recent data demonstrate that intentional weight reduction in obese elderly people ameliorates the cardiovascular risk profile, reduces chronic inflammation and is correlated with an improved quality of life. An individual approach to weight management that includes the participation of the patient, co-morbidity, functional status, and social support should be aspired.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity
  • Obesity / mortality*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Obesity / therapy*
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Rate
  • Weight Loss