AUGUSTA, Ga. Obesity is a major contributor to heart disease that substantially hinders the disease's proper diagnosis and treatment, says a cardiologist researching the impact of obesity and weight loss on the heart.
With obese youth as the fastest-growing demographic group, the country's problem is only going to get worse, said Dr. Sheldon Litwin, a preventive cardiologist and Chief of the Medical College of Georgia Section of Cardiology at Georgia Health Sciences University.
About half of Litwin's patients at GHS Health System have obesity-related heart disease, with shortness of breath, hypertension and diabetes as contributing factors. "Now I am seeing 25-year-olds weighing 350 pounds who present with chest pain or shortness of breath," he said.
"The problem is of enormous magnitude. Everything from the heart disease process to its diagnosis and treatment are affected by obesity. We see it every day. This really is the number-one issue facing us," Litwin said of his cardiology colleagues.
One solution may be gastric bypass surgery which spurs weight loss much faster than lifestyle modifications as it lessens heart disease risk, said Litwin, a co-author of a study published in a September obesity theme issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The Utah Obesity Study followed more than a 1,000 severely obese individuals for six years. About a third had gastric bypass surgery and the remainder either didn't seek or couldn't get the surgery. Surgery patients experienced about a 30 percent weight loss compared with none in controls and had significant reductions as well in cardiovascular risk factors. They experienced a healthy downsizing of their heart's pumping chamber and a profound reduction in the incidence of both active and new diabetes as well as high blood pressure, elevated lipid levels and sleep apnea. Fitness and overall quality of life improved.
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Georgia Health Sciences University