Most overweight individuals have subclinical heart disease

In her PhD thesis, Hilde Halland has studied heart health, fitness and cardiovascular risk factors in overweight and obese women and men.


  1. Subclinical heart disease is frequent in overweight and obese individuals.
  2. Fitness does not seem to protect overweight and obese persons from high cardiovascular risk.
  3. Subclinical heart disease is equally present in fit and unfit overweight persons.


Thesis: Fitness in fatness – Associations with cardiovascular risk factors and subclinical cardiac disease.
Candidate: Hilde Halland
Time: May 24, 2019 at 12:30
Place: University of Bergen, BB building: Auditorium 1
Link to university website (in Norwegian)


Halland’s PhD thesis is based on the FAT associated CardiOvasculaR dysfunction (FATCOR) study, with assessment of maximum oxygen uptake, echocardiography and cardiovascular risk factors in 620 30–65 years old women and men with a body mass index of 27 kg/m2 or higher.

(1) 74 % of the women and 56 % of the men in the study had left atrial dilation. 30 % of the men and 21 % of the women had abnormal left ventricular geometry. In total, 71 % of the participants had subclinical heart disease, with a somewhat higher prevalence among women.

Arterial pulse pressure correlated significantly with subclinical heart disease, whereas most other factors associated with obesity did not.

(2) Fit and unfit overweight and obese men and women seem to have about similar cardiovascular risk. The prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors was generally high in the population, with few significant differences between participants with high versus low maximum oxygen uptake.

28 % of the participants had high fitness for their age and sex. This group had on average somewhat lower blood pressure than the unfit group, but the prevalence of hypertension was not lower. The fit participants also had less obesity, lower waist circumference and less body fat, but the presence of abdominal obesity was similar in the two groups. There were no differences between fit and unfit participants regarding the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, blood sugar or blood lipids.

(3) A currently unpublished study shows no difference in subclinical heart disease between fit and unfit individuals with overweight or obesity.


(1) Halland, H., Lønnebakken, M. T., Saeed, S., Midtbø, H., Cramariuc, D., & Gerdts, E. (2017). Does fitness improve the cardiovascular risk profile in obese subjects?Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases27(6), 518-524.

(2) Halland, H., Lønnebakken, M. T., Pristaj, N., Saeed, S., Midtbø, H., Einarsen, E., & Gerdts, E. (2018). Sex differences in subclinical cardiac disease in overweight and obesity (the FATCOR study)Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases28(10), 1054-1060.

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