Harvard Women's Health Watch

In Brief: Overweight linked to lower death risk in older women

In Brief

Overweight linked to lower death risk in older women

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the 97 million overweight or obese people in the United States are at risk for various chronic diseases as well as death from all causes. But some research suggests that this may not always be true — at least for older women.

To determine the health effects of overweight and obesity, the NHLBI relies on body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight related to height. (You can determine your BMI using the NHLBI's online BMI calculator, www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi.) You're classified as "underweight" if your BMI is less than 18.5; "normal weight" if it's 18.5 to 24.9; "overweight," if 25 to 29.9; and "obese," if 30 or more.

A report published in the May 2007 issue of the American Journal of Public Health questions the significance of BMI for mortality in older women. The research, led by scientists at the University of California in San Francisco, looked at the relationship between body size and mortality in 8,029 women, ages 65 and over, who were followed for eight years as part of the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures.

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