The simple answer is that obese people ARE more likely to develop heart disease. In a Netherlands study of 302,296 overweight or obese participants, 18,000 of them either experienced or died from a heart event. After studying the data, researchers found overweight, but not obese participants, had a 32% higher risk of heart disease than individuals at a normal weight; in people that were obese, that risk increased to 81%.

Because many overweight and obese people also have either high blood pressure or cholesterol (or both) and that may have contributed to the results, they segmented out the data for participants that had normal blood pressure and cholesterol. What they found was that group of overweight people still had a 17% increased risk while the obese had a 49% increase in heart disease risk.

So the study showed that even with normal blood pressure and cholesterol, obese people have a significant increased risk of developing heart disease. And because of the difference in data between overweight and obese, it showed there is a relationship that the more overweight a person is, the higher the increased risk.

What is even more alarming is that 15% of American children are at least overweight with many also being obese; compare this with the 4% figure from just a few decades ago. And of that group, 10% are preschoolers. This means they will an increased risk over a longer part of their life of contracting heart disease. Data shows many will not make it past middle age.

How do you know if you are obese? It comes down to knowing your Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is a measurement of body fat based on height and weight. To calculate it using the metric system, take weight in kilograms and divide it by height in meters (2). For instance if your weight is 68 kg and your height is 1.65 meters, then the formula would be 68/(1.65)2 = 24.98.

Using the English system, the formula is weight in pounds divided by height in inches times 703. For a person weighing 150 pounds with a height of 65” the formula is [150/(65)2] X 703 = 24.96. A value of 30.0 or higher indicates obesity; a reading of 40.0 or higher indicates extreme obesity. Click here for our easy-to-use online BMI calculator.

Because the risk of heart disease is directly proportional to the BMI reading, the good news is that a reduction in weight of just 10% will lower the risk of developing heart disease. If you are obese (or even overweight for that matter), seek advice from your health-care professional on how you can lose weight and reduce your risk for heart disease.