Previous studies have been unclear about the cardiovascular risks for metabolically healthy obese individuals.
Objectives This study examined the associations among metabolically healthy obese individuals and 4 different presentations of incident cardiovascular disease in a contemporary population.
Methods We used linked electronic health records (1995 to 2015) in The Health Improvement Network (THIN) to assemble a cohort of 3.5 million individuals, 18 years of age or older and initially free of cardiovascular disease. We created body size phenotypes defined by body mass index categories (underweight, normal weight, overweight, and obesity) and 3 metabolic abnormalities (diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia). The primary endpoints were the first record of 1 of 4 cardiovascular presentations (coronary heart disease [CHD], cerebrovascular disease, heart failure, and peripheral vascular disease).
Results During a mean follow-up of 5.4 years, obese individuals with no metabolic abnormalities had a higher risk of CHD (multivariate-adjusted hazard ratio [HR]: 1.49; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.45 to 1.54), cerebrovascular disease (HR: 1.07; 95% CI: 1.04 to 1.11), and heart failure (HR: 1.96; 95% CI: 1.86 to 2.06) compared with normal weight individuals with 0 metabolic abnormalities. Risk of CHD, cerebrovascular disease, and heart failure in normal weight, overweight, and obese individuals increased with increasing number of metabolic abnormalities.
Conclusions Metabolically healthy obese individuals had a higher risk of coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and heart failure than normal weight metabolically healthy individuals. Even individuals who are normal weight can have metabolic abnormalities and similar risks for cardiovascular disease events.