"Abdominal obesity is a known predictor of stroke in women and may be a key factor in the midlife stroke surge in women," Towfighi said in a statement.
The relationship makes sense, said Daniel T. Lackland, a professor of epidemiology at the University of South Carolina, and a spokesman for the American Stroke Association. "People have shown that obesity does make a big difference in increasing the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease," he said.
But it's difficult to disentangle the various risk factors that circle around obesity, Lackland said. "What many have shown is that if you increase obesity, you increase the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and also lipid abnormalities," he said, a reference to high cholesterol levels. "Is obesity an independent risk factor for stroke? The study was not designed to show that."
The study does reinforce the standing advice to avoid obesity, as well as other stroke risk factors, Lackland noted. "By losing weight, you lose abdominal circumference, you reduce the risk of diabetes and lipid abnormalities, all of which are known risk factors for cardiovascular disease," he said.
A recent national study found that uncontrolled hypertension rates are increasing among American women of all ages, with 22 percent of women having high blood pressure in the early 2000s, compared to 17 percent in the 1990s. The incidence among American men dropped from 19 percent to 17 percent during that same period, but the rate of decline among men has slowed, the study found.
Stroke and its causes are described by the American Heart Association.
SOURCES: Amytis Towfighi, M.D., assistant professor, neurology, University of Southern California, Los Angeles; Daniel T.
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