Overweight people are 62 percent more likely to survive a stroke than their slighter peers, according to a new study.
Researchers found that, contrary to expectations, carrying some extra body fat may actually increase an elderly person’s chances of surviving a brain bleed.
Experts call it the ‘obesity paradox’.
The same has been found for other conditions, which are more common in heavier people, but for some reason less deadly.
But this is the first evidence that fat could be protective against a stroke.
Previous studies have shown overweight elderly people have a lower death risk from heart disease and kidney disease. Now a new study by UCLA shows the same for stroke survival
‘It was first noticed that carrying extra weight may play a role in survival for people who had suffered from kidney and heart disease, so we felt the need to investigate whether it also was tied to improved stroke survival,’ study author Dr Zuolu Liu, of the University of California, Los Angeles, said.
The study involved more than 1,000 participants with an average age of 71 who had suffered an acute ischemic stroke, one where blood flow to a part of the brain is blocked.
The researchers calculated their body mass index (BMI) based on their height and weight. People are considered overweight if they have a BMI of 25 to 29 and obese with a BMI above 29. The average BMI for the participants was 27.5.
Participants were divided into five categories based on BMI: underweight, normal, overweight, obese and severely obese.
The researchers then monitored patients for three months following their stroke, measuring their levels of disability.
They found that people who were severely obese were 62 percent less likely to die than people of normal weight.
The findings also showed that people who were obese were 46 percent less likely to die after a stroke, and those who were overweight were 15 percent less likely to die.
Conversely, people who were underweight were 67 percent more likely to die after a stroke than people of normal weight.
The results were calculated after researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect survival rates, such as having high blood pressure, high cholesterol or smoking.
Of the 95 people who were severely obese, 11 died during the study, compared to 19 of the 192 people who were obese, 58 of the 395 people who were overweight, 55 of the 327 people who were normal weight and six of the 24 people who were underweight.
Dr Liu added: ‘One possible explanation is that people who are overweight or obese may have a nutritional reserve that may help them survive during prolonged illness.
‘More research is needed to investigate the relationship between body mass index and stroke.’
The findings are due to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in Philadelphia in May.