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Heavier heart-bypass patients fare somewhat better

21 June, 2007

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ISLAMABAD: From a statistical viewpoint, a person’s weight does not affect his or her risk of dying in the hospital after undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting.

However, overweight patients and those with high-normal weights do fare slightly better in this regard than underweight or obese patients, new research shows.

"A little extra body fat apparently provides patients a needed source of glucose... to help them recover from surgery," Dr. Ruyun Jin, from the Providence Health System in Portland, Oregon, said in a statement.

Previous studies investigating the impact of obesity on death rates following coronary bypass -- which is performed to get around blocked arteries supplying blood to the muscle of the heart -- have yielded conflicting results, according to the report in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation. Of the 17 studies that specifically addressed this topic, only the one found obesity to be a significant risk factor.

To sort out these previous findings, Jin’s team analyzed data from 16,218 patients who underwent coronary bypass at one of nine Providence Health System hospitals between 1997 and 2003.

The subjects were divided into one of six groups based on their body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight in relation to height: underweight, normal weight, overweight, mildly obese, moderately obese, and extremely obese.

In agreement with 12 previous reports, the team found no significant correlation between BMI and in-hospital mortality rates after coronary bypass. Still, as noted, the lowest mortality rates were seen in overweight patients or those of high-normal weight.

Dr. Robert Eckel, president-elect of the AHA, doesn’t find this an argument for putting on some extra pounds. As he pointed out in a statement, the findings "may be explained by the fact that those with higher BMIs were younger when they needed surgery and thus had the advantage of youth to help them get through the surgery."

He cautioned that excess weight in the long run is undesirable, being associated with high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.


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