When a superstar influencer gets an Instagram comment of “Obesity isn’t healthy,” defensive followers post back, “Thin people die of heart attacks all the time.”
This reasoning is extremely flawed. It’s like hearing, “Wearing a seatbelt can save your life,” but then arguing, “No it can’t; I know three people who died in car accidents despite wearing a seatbelt.”
How do people MISS the total lack of logic with these kinds of defenses?
There are morbidly obese body-positive influencers who often receive comments on their Instagram about how they’re going to have an early death, how their kids will be left without a mother while still young, how their children won’t have a mother later in life, etc.
Vigilante supporters of these morbidly obese influencers are quick to pounce back, typically pointing out that they have skinny friends who take heart medications, who get winded easily, and thin relatives who’ve had heart attacks or crippling strokes.
To date, weighing 125 pounds on a 5’6 frame – in and of itself – has not been shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular events or early death.
If such an individual has a bad heart, then it’s because he or she has OTHER risk factors or causative agents for heart disease, such as a smoking habit, cocaine use, high blood pressure, a junk food diet or never doing any aerobic exercise.
“Obesity is an independent risk factor for heart disease,” says Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director of NYU Women’s Heart Program and radio show host of “Beyond the Heart” on Doctor Radio SiriusXM.
Dr. Goldberg adds, “It also increases risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and elevated triglycerides and low levels of good cholesterol HDL.”
About that high blood pressure. This condition is so prevalent in the U.S. that it doesn’t surprise cardiologists and bariatric physicians that many skinny people have it. Obesity isn’t the only cause.
A thin person with uncontrolled high blood pressure is at high risk for a stroke — because of the hypertension, not the body weight.
This is a horrible defense for “A person who’s morbidly obese can still be healthy.”
Dr. Goldberg continues, “Weight is not the only risk factor for heart disease. You can be of normal weight and still have a heart attack. High cholesterol, cigarette smoking, diabetes, family history and sedentary lifestyle are also risks for heart disease.”
The observation that skinny people can get heart disease or stroke doesn’t show cause and effect.
Rather, their trim frame is just incidental to any cardiovascular-related medical condition. This assumes that the thinness isn’t of anorexia nervosa caliber.
“No matter what your weight, you can be at risk for heart disease,” says Dr. Goldberg.
Do these worshippers of very heavy body-positive influencers know what TYPE of diabetes their skinny friend has?
Type 1 diabetes seemingly strikes from nowhere, affecting even babies. This explains why some diabetics are of normal weight or thin.
However, only 10 percent of all diabetics have the type 1 variant.
Example of How a Thin Person Can Get Very Clogged Arteries
• Alan is 45, 5’9 and 140 pounds.
• When he wears a suit he looks lean and fit. But in underpants only, he looks like he’s never worked out a day in his life – because he never has. He’s “skinny fat.”
• His diet is mostly processed foods.
• He’s had untreated sleep apnea for 20 years.
• Alan has a weak heart, high blood pressure and must take medications for these.
Wait – SLEEP APNEA in a thin person???
Yes, because Alan likes to drink shortly before bedtime, and this relaxes the tissue in his upper airway, causing it to collapse when he falls asleep.
This, along with naturally excessive pharyngeal tissue, obstructs his airway – and hence, sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a major risk factor for high blood pressure and chronic heart failure!
So that’s just one example of how a so-called skinny person could develop cardiovascular problems.
Unfortunately, the fans of those superstar body-positive crusaders are so dazed by their idol that many will never accept the facts.
But let’s simplify this as follows:
• Skinny people get heart attacks, strokes and type 2 diabetes.
• There are MANY risk factors for these conditions.
• One is obesity.
• Having a slender frame is not a risk factor for artery blockages, high cholesterol, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart attack or heart failure.
• Lack of exercise will make a thin person get easily winded. Imagine how much more “out of shape” they’d be if they packed on a hundred pounds of fat.
• Eighty percent of type 2 diabetics have some degree of overweight. This isn’t coincidence.
It’s a fact: Obesity is never a healthy way for one’s body to exist, even if a snapshot in time reveals normal blood work and blood pressure.
The negative impact that obesity, especially morbid, has on any body becomes increasingly relevant as that individual approaches middle age. Youth is an amazing protector against sickness.
Dr. Goldberg is senior advisor, Women’s Health Strategy, NYU Langone Health; founder and former medical director, Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health; and clinical associate professor, NYU Grossman School of Medicine.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer for Bally Total Fitness.