Local News

JAMA Study: More Obese Women At Higher Risk Of Death

Posted July 4, 2006

— Dr. Madelyn Fernstrom of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center has noticed a disturbing trend among hundreds of her patients.

"In the last several years, I've seen a big increase in not just the number of women seeking help but they're larger and larger and getting medically sicker," said Fernstrom, who works with overweight and obese female patients.

The same thing is happening across the nation, according to a

new study

in the

Journal of the American Medical Association

.

Researchers tracked the health of more than 90,000 women for about seven years and found that the heavier a woman is, the greater her risk is for premature death.

For example, a woman who is 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighs 190 pounds has a 12 percent higher risk of death than a woman who at the same height weighs 130 pounds.

And a woman weighing 250 pounds at 5 feet 5 inches has an 86 percent higher risk of death than a woman of healthy weight at that height.

"We found that diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol accounted for much of the obesity-related death risk," said Dr. Kathleen McTigue of the University of Pittsburgh.

The risks were the same across all ethnic groups, although black women had the highest percentage of extreme obesity at about 10 percent.

Fernstrom said she would like to see people seek help for their weight problems sooner.

"It's much easier to lose 20 pounds or 30 pounds than 100 pounds," she said.

That difference in pounds, medical experts say, could be the difference between life and death.

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