Obesity Effects Stroke

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (2010). Stroke survivors often face long-term disability and impaired quality of life. Unfortunately, there’s a link between obesity and stroke; obesity increases the risk of stroke, making it one of the most serious obesity health issues.

What Is a Stroke?

Signs of stroke occur due to compromised blood flow to the brain. There are two major types of stroke:

  • Hemorrhagic stroke occurs if a blood vessel in the brain ruptures and bleeds into surrounding brain tissue.
  • Ischemic stroke develops if a blood clot blocks arteries in the brain.

Obesity and Stroke

Researchers have discovered that obesity and stroke are related. Obesity increases the risk of many conditions, all of which increase the risk of stroke:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure).

A study by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (2010) revealed that abdominal fat increases the risk of stroke, especially in those under the age of 65. Abdominal fat is the extra “belly fat” that causes an apple-shaped body.

Although men tend to have higher rates of stroke than women, a study by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (2010) revealed that women between ages 45 and 54 have double the risk of stroke as men.

This same study also revealed that rates of stroke in women between the ages 35 and 54 are now three times the rate seen between 1988 and 1994. This dramatic increase matches the rising rates of obesity and metabolic syndrome in this demographic.

Weight Loss: Stroke Prevention

Weight loss helps lower the risk of stroke and stroke-related health complications. A healthy diet and exercise reduce the risk of many obesity health issues, including stroke.

Along with obesity, other stroke risk factors include:

  • Age
  • Diabetes
  • Genetics
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Hypertension
  • Poor diet
  • Tobacco use.

Several of these risks — most notably hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and high blood cholesterol — are closely linked to obesity and are health problems in and of themselves. Many obesity health issues may be avoided by weight loss, stroke included.

Signs of Stroke

The signs of stroke develop suddenly and without warning. Possible signs of stroke include:

  • Difficulty speaking or understanding speech
  • Difficulty walking
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of balance
  • Loss of coordination
  • Mental confusion
  • Numbness, weakness or paralysis of the arm, face or leg
  • Severe headache
  • Sudden vision problems in one or both eyes.

Signs and Symptoms of a Stroke - Obesity and Stroke

Numbness or weakness is often confined to one side of the body. Signs of stroke are a medical emergency. While successful treatment of stroke is possible, this hinges on early intervention. Call 911 immediately if you notice signs of stroke, and tell the emergency operator that a stroke may be occurring.


American Heart Association Staff. (n.d.). Stroke risk factors. Retrieved June 8, 2010, from http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4716.

Dougherty, M. (n.d.). Study finds abdominal obesity a stroke risk factor. Retrieved June 8, 2010, from http://www.cumc.columbia.edu/news/in-vivo/Vol2_Iss13_aug18_03/stroke.html.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2010). Know stroke. Know the signs. Act in time. Retrieved June 8, 2010, from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/stroke/knowstroke.htm.

Towfighi, A. (2010). Weight of the obesity epidemic. Rising stroke rates among middle-aged women in the United States. Retrieved June 8, 2010, from http://stroke.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/short/STROKEAHA.109.577510v1.