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Lung Disease & Respiratory Health Center

Obesity Ups Risk of Pulmonary Embolism, DVT

Increased Risk Seen in Men and Women, Especially Those Younger Than 40
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Sept. 9, 2005 -- New research shows that obesity makes men and women more likely to develop two blood clotting problems -- deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism.

The risk of those problems is highest for obese women who are younger than 40 years old, researchers report in The American Journal of Medicine.

In DVT, a blood clot forms in a deep vein. In pulmonary embolism, a blood clot breaks loose from a vein and travels to the lungs where it can be fatal.

Obesity Study

The obesity study was conducted by researchers including Paul Stein, MD, of St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Hospital in Pontiac, Mich., and Wayne State University.

Stein's team checked a large national database of hospital discharge records. They looked at obesity, DVT, and pulmonary embolism over a 21-year period.

DVT and pulmonary embolism were relatively rare but more common in patients diagnosed with obesity. The numbers:

  • Obese patients with pulmonary embolism: 0.76% (91,000 of 12 million people)
  • Nonobese patients with pulmonary embolism: 0.34% (2.4 million of 691 million people)
  • Obese patients with DVT: 2% (243,000 of 12 million people)
  • Nonobese patients with DVT: 0.8% (5.5 million of 691 million people)

Obese patients were 2.5 times as likely to have DVT and 2.2 times as likely to have pulmonary embolism, the study shows.

Men, Women, and Age

Obesity raised the risk of DVT and pulmonary embolism in men and women alike. However, the risk was a bit higher for obese women.

Age also mattered. The odds of getting pulmonary embolism and DVT were more than five times higher for obese patients younger than 40 than for their nonobese peers.

Obese women under age 40 had the highest risk of DVT. They were six times as likely as nonobese women under age 40 to have DVT. For men younger than 40, obesity more than tripled the risk of DVT.

Some hospital discharge records may not have noted obesity. That could have affected the data, the researchers write.

It can be hard to lose weight (and keep it off), but it's possible. Many studies over the years have shown that getting in shape can greatly improve health. If losing weight is important to you, see a doctor or health care professional for advice.

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