Obesity May Raise Risk of Fibromyalgia

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April 29, 2010 — Overweight and obese women — especially those who do notexercise at all or exercise for less than an hour a week — are at higher riskfor developing the widespread pain disorder fibromyalgia, according to newresearch in the May issue of Arthritis Care & Research.

“Being overweight or obese was associated with an increased risk offibromyalgia, especially among women who also reported low levels of leisuretime physical exercise,” the researchers conclude. “Community-based measuresaimed at reducing the incident of fibromyalgia should emphasize the importanceof regular physical exercise and maintenance of normal body weight.”

Fibromyalgia affects an estimated 10 million people in the U.S. and ismarked by widespread pain and tender points along the body, extreme fatigue,sleep problems, depression, and problems with cognition, according to theNational Fibromyalgia Association. Other suspected risk factors forfibromyalgia include stressful or traumatic events such as an automobileaccident, family history, or the presence of rheumatic diseases such aslupus.

In the new study, Paul Mork, DPhil, and colleagues culled data from theNord-Trondelag Health (HUNT) Study. HUNT1, the first part of the study, wasconducted in 1984-1986, while HUNT 2 was conducted from 1995 to 1997. Therewere 380 new cases of fibromyalgia diagnosed among 15,990 women during the 11years between the two surveys.

Women with a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to 25 had a 60% to70% greater risk of developing fibromyalgia, when compared with their thinnercounterparts. A BMI takes height and weight into account to measure body fat.If your BMI is greater than 25, you are considered overweight. If it is over30, you are considered obese; a BMI over 40 is considered severely obese.

Benefits of Exercise

Exercise tended to offset the fibromyalgia risks posed by obesity, the studyshowed. The more that women exercised, the lower their risk of developingfibromyalgia. The protective effects of exercise on fibromyalgia risk even heldamong overweight or obese women.

Exactly how being overweight or obese could increase risk of developingfibromyalgia is not fully understood, but some research suggests that increasedlevels of certain inflammatory proteins may play a role in both fibromyalgiaand obesity.

“The results of this study underline the connection between exercise,obesity, and well-being. And a person who exercises and is conscious abouttheir weight will have better health and that may include a lower risk ofdeveloping fibromyalgia,” says Eric Matteson, MD,  chair of the departmentof rheumatology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

“This study shows that exercise is helpful even if you are obese,” he says.”We know that people who already have fibromyalgia and exercise do far betterthan those people who have the disorder and don’t exercise, and this studyreinforces the relationship between exercise and fibromyalgia.”

“People who are obese or overweight develop fibromyalgia more frequently,and those people who are overweight or obese and exercise are a little betteroff than those who don’t exercise at all,” says Kyriakos A. Kirou, MD, arheumatologist  at Hospital for Special Surgery in New YorkCity. 

“The new study reinforces the value of a healthy lifestyle which includesregular exercise, keeping your weight down, and eating healthy,” he says.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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