Study: A Few Extra Pounds = Big Heart Risk

Overweight man on texture with up arrow, partial graphic 2005/8/23
For years studies have shown that most people can still be healthy, even when just slightly overweight. That was good news for many Americans - nearly 190 million are considered either "moderately overweight" or "obese." But new findings tonight show that when it comes to raising your risk of heart failure, every extra pound counts. CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker reports.

Philippe Morotti works out to keep the weight off.

He was surprised to hear today's report that just a few extra pounds can weigh heavily on the heart and dramatically boost his risk of heart failure.

"If you're 10 lbs. overweight, I wouldn't worry too much about it," he said.

But you should, Whitaker reports. The findings of this major national study - analyzing two decades of data tracking the health of 21,000 middle-aged American men, all of them doctors - are a sobering jolt for all men.

"Not obese, but just being overweight increases the risk of heart failure by 49 percent," said Dr. Satish Kenchaiah, a researcher for the study.

For example: take an average man of 5'10." As the scale goes up, so does his risk of heart disease - even if he's only modestly overweight, between 174 and 208 pounds.

For every seven pounds gained, the modestly overweight 5'10" man packs on, he raises his risk of heart failure by a full 11 percent.

There is some good news in all of this. The researchers found that even a little bit of exercise, enough to break a sweat just one to three times a month, can reduce your chance of heart failure by 18 percent.

"If you are lean and active your risk of heart failure will be the lowest and if you're obese and inactive it will be the highest," Kenchaiah said.

Morotti said: "The bottom line is you need to make time to work out."

Especially at this time of year when Americans are eating the most.