A Jaw-Dropping Spike in Obesity-Related Heart Deaths

My Heart Cries for the PastTwo years ago, we got the first signal. It looked like deaths due to heart disease were no longer dropping. In fact, they went up in 2020. This week, the reason why became pretty clear. A new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association documented a tripling of obesity-related heart deaths over the past two decades. Lead author Zahra Raisi-Estabragh describes the significance of this analysis:

“The number of people with obesity is rising in every country across the world. Our study is the first to demonstrate that this increasing burden of obesity is translating into rising heart disease deaths. This rising trend of obesity is affecting some populations more than others, particularly Black women.”

Jarring Disparities

Perhaps even more distressing is the picture of disparities this new publication presents. Senior author Mamas A. Mamas describes it:

“The trend of higher obesity-related cardiovascular death rates for Black women than men was striking and different from all other racial groups considered in our study.”

Furthermore, while Black women are experiencing the highest rates of obesity-related heart deaths, American Indians and Alaska Natives experienced the steepest increases. Their deaths went up by more than five-fold between 1999 and 2020. Let that sink in – a five-fold increase.

Can’t Afford to Treat Obesity?

We will never tire of pointing out the absurdity of lame arguments about the cost of treating obesity. Because these data show us in stark terms the human cost of untreated obesity.

We now have therapies offering dramatic efficacy for obesity and a growing community of skilled healthcare providers who can tailor them to individual patient needs. What’s more, we have emerging evidence that these therapies quite literally can cut the rate of obesity-related heart deaths and other complications by a fifth. We know from recent data in heart failure that those therapies can dramatically improve life for patients whose outlook is otherwise very grim.

So we have little patience with no-can-do policy makers and business people who don’t care enough about human life to figure out how to make these therapies available to more than just the wealthy and well-insured.

People of goodwill must insist upon change.

Click here for the study in JAHA, here and here for further perspective.

My Heart Cries for the Past, painting by Fernand Khnopff / WikiArt

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


September 9, 2023