Controlling blood pressure, serum cholesterol, and blood glucose may substantially reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke associated with being overweight or obese, according to a study from a worldwide research consortium led by a team from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), Imperial College London, and the University of Sydney. Among the three factors, high blood pressure was found to pose the biggest risk for heart disease, and an even bigger risk for stroke, among overweight or obese participants.

“Our results show that the harmful effects of overweight and obesity on heart disease and stroke partly occur by increasing blood pressure, serum cholesterol and blood glucose. Therefore, if we control these risk factors, for example through better diagnosis and treatment of hypertension, we can prevent some of the harmful effects of overweight and obesity,” said senior author Goodarz Danaei, HSPH assistant professor of global health.

The study appears online November 22, 2013 in The Lancet.

Worldwide, obesity has nearly doubled since 1980, according to a previous study by the research team, and more than 1.4 billion adults aged 20 and older are overweight or obese. Health consequences of overweight and obesity include heart disease and stroke—the leading causes of death worldwide—diabetes, and several types of cancer. The researchers had also previously estimated that 3.4 million annual deaths are due to overweight and obesity.

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