Extra weight may improve survival after stroke in ‘obesity paradox’

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Obese individuals face higher risks for stroke. But new research appears to show those with extra weight see better outcomes after suffering such an incident when compared to those in the normal range for bodyweight.

Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the study adds evidence to a so-called “obesity paradox,” where overweight or obese patients see improved outcomes.

Researchers examined participants in the Framingham Heart Study, measuring body mass index (BMI) prior to stroke. Comparing such individuals to those who did not experience stroke, the team analyzed how bodyweight impacted survival 10 years after an incident. Controlling for factors such as smoking, hypertension and diabetes, researchers found those above a healthy bodyweight had higher survival rates.

Corresponding author Hugo J. Aparicio, MD, MPH, assistant professor of neurology at Boston University School of Medicine, cautioned this study does not prove obesity can be protective to individuals, but the conclusions are worth examining.

"Nonetheless, observing this so-called 'obesity paradox' has important clinical implications and it is essential for clinicians and researchers to better understand the role of body weight in recovery after stroke so that they can make proper recommendations on weight loss or weight maintenance," said Aparicio.