Obesity-Related Cardiovascular Disease Deaths Surging

Miriam E. Tucker  

September 06, 2023


  • In contrast to an overall decline in cardiovascular mortality, obesity-related cardiovascular deaths have risen substantially in the past two decades, most prominently among Black women. "We observed a threefold increase in obesity-related cardiovascular age-adjusted mortality rates between 1999 and 2020," write the authors.


  • Data from the US population-level Multiple Cause of Death database were analyzed, including 281,135 deaths in 1999-2020 for which obesity was listed as a contributing factor.


  • Overall, the crude rate of all cardiovascular deaths dropped by 17.6% across all races.

  • However, age-adjusted obesity-related cardiovascular mortality tripled from 2.2/100,000 to 6.6/100,000 from 1999 to 2020, consistent across all racial groups.

  • Blacks had the highest age-adjusted obesity-related cardiovascular mortality (rising from 4.2/100,000 in 1999 to 11.6/100,000 in 2000).

  • Ischemic heart disease was the most common cardiovascular cause of death across all races, and hypertensive disease was second.

  • Age-adjusted obesity-related cardiovascular mortality was higher among Blacks (6.7/100,000) than any other racial group, followed by American Indians or Alaskan Natives (3.8/100,000), and lowest among Asian or Pacific Islanders (0.9/100,000).

  • The risk of obesity-related cardiovascular disease death rose most rapidly among American Indians and Alaskan Natives.

  • Among Blacks, age-adjusted mortality was slightly higher among women than men (6.7/100,000 vs 6.6/100,000), whereas the reverse was true for all other races (0.6-3.0/100,000 vs 1.2-6.0/100,000).

  • Blacks living in urban settings experienced higher rates of age-adjusted cardiovascular mortality than those living in rural areas (6.8/100,000 vs 5.9/100,000), whereas the opposite was true for all other racial groups (0.9-3.5/100,000 vs 2.2-5.4/100,000).


"There is need for dedicated health strategies aimed at individual communities to better understand and tackle the social determinants of obesity and to design interventions that may alleviate the population burden of both obesity and cardiovascular disease," state the authors.


The study, by Zahra Raisi-Estabragh, MD, PhD, Queen Mary University, London, UK, and colleagues, was published online September 6 in the Journal of the American Heart Association.


  • Database limited to US residents.

  • Possible miscoding or diagnostic errors.

  • Potential for residual confounding.

  • No data on underlying drivers of observed trends.


Raisi-Estabragh has reported receiving funding from the Integrated Academic Training program of the National Institute for Health Research and a Clinical Research Training Fellowship from the British Heart Foundation. Another author has reported receiving research support from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Miriam E. Tucker is a freelance journalist based in the Washington, DC, area. She is a regular contributor to Medscape, with other work appearing in The Washington Post, NPR's Shots blog, and Diabetes Forecast magazine. She is on Twitter: @MiriamETucker.

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