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Weight-Loss Surgery May 'Remodel' Heart
Date:2/3/2011

By Jenifer Goodwin
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Feb. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Besides enabling severely obese people to lose weight, gastric bypass surgery seems to help their overly stressed hearts return to more normal function and appearance, a new study suggests.

Obesity is a risk factor for many types of heart problems, including heart failure, atrial fibrillation (an abnormal heart rhythm) and death, explained senior study author Dr. Sheldon Litwin, chief of cardiology at the Medical College of Georgia.

The connection between obesity and cardiovascular disease isn't fully understood, but obese people often show signs of structural changes to the heart, including excess heart muscle mass in the left ventricle and enlargement of the right ventricular cavity. Both are linked to heart failure and other problems.

For this study, published in the Feb. 8 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers followed more than 400 severely obese people with an average age of 42 who had gastric bypass surgery, which reduces stomach size. They were compared with a reference group of more than 300 severely obese individuals who did not have the weight-loss surgery.

Two years later, patients' body mass index (BMI) fell from an average of nearly 48 (morbidly obese) to about 32. Their average weight loss was about 100 pounds, Litwin said. (A BMI of 30 is obese, while a BMI of 25 is considered normal weight).

Participants also had smaller waistlines, lower blood pressure and heart rate, healthier cholesterol levels and less insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes, the researchers found.

Echocardiograms, or ultrasounds of the heart, also showed a "remodeling" of their heart structure, including a reduction in the left ventricular mass and right ventricular cavity area.

Those reductions in heart mass and volume indicate a heart that's less stressed, isn't having
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