In the U.S. alone, nearly one third of all adults are obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most people understand that being overweight can lead to serious medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, however a new study finds that being overweight and taking part in other negative lifestyle choices such as smoking, may lead to heart attacks or early death, especially among the elderly.
Researchers from the University of Copenhagen have been conducting an ongoing study of DNA samples from 20,000 participants. From the DNA, scientists look at each person's specific telomere length, which is a measurement of cellular aging.
According to researchers, people with short telomeres are more likely to suffer an early death or a heart attack in comparison to people with longer ones. Factors that can lead to the shortening of the telomeres including certain lifestyles choices such as being overweight or smoking, though telomeres shorten naturally as people age.
"[The idea] that smoking and obesity increases the risk of heart disease has been known for a while," said Borge Nordestgaard, lead author of the study. "We have now shown, as has been speculated, that the increased risk is directly related to the shortening of the protective telomeres – so you can say that smoking and obesity ages the body on a cellular level, just as surely as the passing of time."
Nordestgaard and his team have been looking at the participants' DNA for nearly 19 years and found that people with short telomeres had a 50 percent increased risk of suffering a heart attack and a 25 percent higher chance of dying early.
Families providing elder care to a loved one who is overweight might want to consider starting an exercise routine or enlisting the help of home health nursing professionals to get the senior back on track in terms of eating right and losing weight.