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Piling on Pounds When Younger May Lead to Enlarged Heart Later
Date:3/7/2013

cause the longer you spend overweight, the greater the weight of your heart muscle," Ghosh explained. "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."

The study results come from 44 years of data and few, if any, other studies have been able to examine the connection between body weight and heart size over such a long time period, added Ghosh, who is also with the U.K. Medical Research Council's Unit for Lifelong Health and Aging.

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum is a preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City. She explained that "the effects of being overweight ... are not simply in increasing heart risk factors, but also in increasing the amount of work the heart has to do, which results in hypertrophy of the heart muscle. In time, this can result in a cardiomyopathy and worse outcomes."

This may be especially important in youth, Ghosh said.

"Our findings add to the wealth of evidence that obesity and being overweight from a young age is not good, and provide yet another reason why we need to focus on preventing obesity and promoting a healthy lifestyle," Ghosh said. "Being overweight is a significant risk factor for heart disease, and worldwide, people seem to be becoming overweight at younger and younger ages."

He noted that one-third of school-aged children in North America are overweight, with an increasing number of children carrying excess pounds when they reach adulthood.

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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