Women with 'healthy' bodies still face long-term health risks, study finds

Most women developed diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol regardless of weight

Women with 'healthy' bodies still face long-term health risks, study finds

Obesity has been linked to a variety of adverse health conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. But a new study suggests that having a “healthy” weight does not guarantee long-term health.

In a study published in the Lancet, researchers followed a group of 90,000 American women for up to 30 years to see the long-term health prospects for obese and non-obese people, reported Global News. They found that diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol developed in most subjects, including those who started at a normal body weight.

“Two-thirds of women classified as having a ‘healthy’ body weight at their initial examination ended up with one of those three metabolic diseases,” Global News said.

The findings run parallel to figures for Canadians. Statistics Canada has found that 53% of Canadians aged 60 to 79 reported being diagnosed with hypertension, while 23% of women aged 70 to 74 were found to have diabetes in 2013-2014.

“Even if people start out with pretty good body composition, low body fat, as they get older, you tend to lose some of your muscle and you tend to put on more fat,” explained Dr. Arya Sharma, scientific director of the Canadian Obesity Network. “So your body becomes fatter even without the numbers on the scale actually changing.”

Study co-author Matthias Schulze of the German Institute of Human Nutrition noted that aging is just one of the risk factors. Some variables, such as family history of disease and one’s metabolic characteristics, are outside people’s control.

But that doesn’t people who face such obstacles are doomed to be unhealthy, Sharma stressed; they just have a tougher battle to fight. He said regular exercise — even the government-recommended amount of 2.5 hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity — offers the best chance of prevention. Opting for a higher-quality diet, getting better sleep, and managing one’s stress more effectively can also help.

Even if one ends up with a metabolic disease like diabetes, delaying its onset by a few years can make a big difference. “[D]iabetes causes problems over a 10- to 20-year period,” Sharma explained. “So if you delay that by five or six years, you can have a very substantial health benefit.”