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In all weight categories, risk factors for heart problems were generally more common in older people, smokers and inactive people. Among obese people who were 50 to 64, just 20 percent were considered healthy compared with half of younger obese people.
The results underscore how important exercise is for staying healthy, even for people of healthy weight, Wylie-Rosett said.
The authors noted that fat tissue releases hormones and other substances that affect things like blood vessels, cholesterol and blood sugar. The results suggest this interaction varies among overweight and obese people, the authors said.
The results also add to mounting evidence that thick waists are linked with heart risks.
Among people of healthy weight in the study, elevated blood pressure, cholesterol and other factors were more common for people with larger waists or potbellies. This often signals internal fat deposits surrounding abdominal organs, which previous research has shown can be especially risky.
Similarly, among overweight and obese adults, those in the "healthy" category tended to have smaller waists than those with at least two risk factors.
Dr. Lewis Landsberg, a Northwestern University obesity expert, noted that the research didn't look at heart disease, and that not everyone with high risk factors develops heart problems.
Still, he said, the study shows that waist measurements can help assess health.
On the Net:
American Heart Association: http://www.heart.org/
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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