Fat People Die Sooner, Right?

Reading Michelle’s post on death (cached here if you can’t read it on her site)   got me thinking.

How else on earth could you explain a doctor expressing anger and blame at someone for accidentally dying? And to then vent that anger on his grieving wife? You couldn’t. There was no other explanation but the fear of death, utilizing the Just-world Hypothesis as its conduit.

Fortunately that didn’t happen to me when either parent died.  My mother, who died at age 74, reached the point with Parkinson’s and Lewy body dementia where she could no longer eat or drink.  My father died of a heart attack brought on by severe anemia related to bladder cancer.  He was 77.

My mother was fat for most of her life.  My father was thin for most of his.  Neither died due to a health problem for which fat or thin is a specific risk.  My father smoked for decades, which increases bladder cancer risk — but smoking isn’t the only risk factor.

Sometimes it’s not about fat.


A few related links:

Age is the number one risk factor for dying. My folks were born in the early 1930s. According to the US SSA (Figure 2a) my mother’s life expectancy at birth was  60 years — and my father’s was less.

My mother also struggled with diabetes and depression, both of which increase death risk.

Longer-lived parents tend to have longer-lived children. It’s like it’s genetic or something.

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17 thoughts on “Fat People Die Sooner, Right?

  1. Out of five of us kids, one has died. He was the only thin one. The rest of us weigh over 300. One is about 500 pounds. My one brother who died was about 200, about right for his build and muscles. He died of cancer. No, it is not all about being fat.

  2. Most of the long-lived people in my family, aside from my older brother who will be 80 in May & is built just like our thin father who died at 63, have been fat. Another brother, who was fat, died of inherited kidney disease a few weeks before he turned 75. My brothers were also born in the 1930’s. Our fat mother, who also inherited the kidney disease but lived with one kidney for over 40 years, died at 85. Her mother, whose family gave us the longevity genes, was also fat & died at 90. I honestly believe that fat, in & of itself, has remarkably little to do with health or longevity, except to have some protective value as we age. We live in a culture which is screaming at us constantly about ‘personal responsibility’, constantly trying to sell us the idea that we can control whether or not we get sick or die young, & which does indeed often try blame anyone who dies before the age of 100 for doing something ‘wrong.’

  3. I must have missed the post where your father passed away. I know your relationship with him was not great. Still, losing a parent is something nobody should have to deal with. I’m sorry for your loss.

    My oldest uncle is 60 and has heart problems. When he was first diagnosed with arrythmia he changed his eating and lost over a hundred pounds. His arrythmia did not change. He went to his cardiologist and asked why his condition was not improving. The cardiologist told him that the arrythmia has nothing to do with weight, it was entirely genetic.

    • I must have missed the post where your father passed away. I know your relationship with him was not great. Still, losing a parent is something nobody should have to deal with. I’m sorry for your loss.

      Thank you for your kind words.

  4. I agree with you, about it not always being about fat, there are many non-fat related things that can kill people. Some of the fat hatred stuff gets so crazy, they act like if someone is thin they will never die, or all live to be 100, well it doesn’t work that way. I know a 90lb woman who had a stroke in her 50s. Sorry for your loss too. I do think as a general trend, larger size fatter people do die younger [the over 300-350lb set] absolutely, my own eyes have seen it. While one of my closest friends family where they are thin all seem to live into their 80s for my own relatives, even making it to the mid-60s seems more the exception then the rule and we have many people over 250-300lbs and few over400lbs. My 44 year old brother has already had two heart attacks. I have almost died several times even once from an infection, though asthma was the culprit more then a few times. I have the attitude I want to beat the overall trends and actually make it to be an old woman, but figure this will be God’s doing not my own if it happens.

  5. Thank you so much for your posts about your father. My mom is 77, my dad is 81, both are grappling with illnesses, and we’re getting to the point where there’s no more time for pretending our relationship is anything other than what it is. Your honesty has helped me on my own path.

  6. I am sorry for your loss; I hadn’t realized your caregiving had ended. I wish you and your family all the best.

  7. I’m sorry to hear about the death of your father. It’s always hard to lose our parents, but sometimes it’s even harder when the relationship has been rocky.

    Be gentle with yourself as you work through this. Hugs.

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