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Midlife Overweight in Women Leads to Later Poorer Health

Last Updated: September 30, 2009.

A woman who is overweight at midlife has significantly reduced odds of healthy survival past the age of 70, according to a study published Sept. 29 in BMJ.

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 30 (HealthDay News) -- A woman who is overweight at midlife has significantly reduced odds of healthy survival past the age of 70, according to a study published Sept. 29 in BMJ.

Qi Sun, M.D., of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues assembled data on 17,065 women from the Nurses' Health Study (started in 1976) who survived until at least the age of 70, and who did not have chronic conditions at baseline. The researchers analyzed "healthy survival" in the group at 70 and older, which was defined as not having any of 11 major chronic diseases (cancer, diabetes, a heart condition, kidney failure, and others) and preservation of cognitive, physical, and mental functioning.

Of the women surviving to 70 and beyond, 1,686 (9.9 percent) met the study criteria for healthy survival. The researchers found that higher baseline body mass index (BMI) was significantly associated with reduced odds of healthy survival compared to simple survival. Women who were obese (BMI ≥30) had 79 percent reduced odds of achieving healthy survival compared to women of lower weight (BMI, 18.5 to 22.9). The group with the poorest odds for healthy survival was made up of women who were overweight at age 18 (BMI ≥25) and had gained ≥10 kg of weight by midlife.

"These data provide evidence that adiposity in midlife is strongly related to a reduced probability of healthy survival among women who live to older ages, and emphasize the importance of maintaining a healthy weight from early adulthood," the authors write.

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