Being Overweight Harms the Heart Over the Long Term

Carrying excess fat tissue for years in youth and mid-life is associated with a greater risk of age-related disease and a shorter life expectancy down the line. An increased level of chronic inflammation is one of the reasons why this is the case, but here is a closer look at another of the mechanisms involved:

Results of this longitudinal study found that people who carry excess weight over their lifetime are much more likely to have increases in left ventricular mass and relative wall thickness - both strong and independent predictors of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. In this instance, timing is indeed everything; the earlier someone becomes overweight, the greater the increase in the heart's mass later in life.

"Being overweight in your 20s can have detrimental effects on the heart 40 years in the future, especially if you keep the weight on over the years. It's probably the wrong attitude to think 'I know I'm overweight now, but I'll lose the weight later' because the longer you spend overweight, the greater the weight of your heart muscle. And we know from other studies that even if we take away or account for high blood pressure, diabetes or other risk factors for heart disease, somebody with a bigger heart muscle is more likely to have a heart attack, die or have other problems, such as stroke."

Researchers tracked the body mass index (BMI) of 1,653 men and women at different points in their lives to examine the effects of being overweight on the structure of the heart. BMI is a simple measure of the body's fat using a calculation of weight to height. People who were considered overweight, with a BMI of 25 to 29.9, or obese, with a BMI of 30 or above, had the heaviest hearts. [Few], if any, studies have been able to look at this question over such a long duration. He and his team drew from 44 years of data. Strikingly, the heart was 7 percent heavier for those who were overweight beginning in their 20s compared to those who only became overweight in their 60s.

Link: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-03/acoc-ami030613.php

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