- Being overweight at a young age may increase high blood pressure (hypertension) and cause changes in the structure and functions of the heart
- Higher BMI (body mass index) may cause adverse effects on the cardiovascular system
- Maintaining a healthy body weight from a young age may help prevent the development of heart disease in later life
Being overweight at a young age may change the structure and functions of the heart, reports a new study. The findings of the study are published in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation
A new study suggests overweight in young adults may cause higher blood pressure and thicken heart muscle, thereby increasing the risk of developing heart disease in later life
‘A person who is overweight or having a higher BMI (body mass index) at a younger age is more likely to have hypertension (high blood pressure) and changes in the structure and functions of the heart which may increase the risk of heart disease in later life.’
The study is the first to examine whether higher BMI (body mass index)
which is a weight-for-height index may result in unfavorable outcomes on the cardiovascular system in young adults.
Previous observational studies can suggest associations between risk factors or lifestyle behaviors and heart disease, but they cannot prove the cause-and-effect. In the present study, a team of researchers triangulated the findings from three different types of genetic analysis to reveal evidence that BMI causes specific differences in cardiovascular measurements.
The results of the study can encourage efforts to reduce body mass index (BMI) to within a normal, healthy range from a young age to prevent the risk of developing heart disease in later life, said Kaitlin H. Wade, B.Sc., Ph.D., lead author of the study and a research associate at the Medical Research Council Integrative Epidemiology Unit at the University of Bristol Medical School in the United Kingdom.
Details of the Study
The research team analyzed data on several thousand healthy 17 to 21-year-olds from Bristol, United Kingdom, who have participated in the Children of the 90s study and have been monitored since they were born.
Findings of the Study
The findings of the study suggest that higher BMI caused:
- higher systolic (upper value) and diastolic (lower value) blood pressure
- enlargement of the heart's main pumping chamber, the left ventricle
"Thickening of vessel walls
is widely considered to be the first sign of atherosclerosis
, a disease in which fatty plaques build up within the arteries and lead to heart disease. However, our findings suggest that higher BMIs cause changes in the heart structure of the young that may precede changes in blood vessels
," said Wade.
Mendelian randomization and recall-by-genotype are the two analyses used in the study take advantage of the properties of genetic variation. Recall-by-genotype is new and utilizes the random allocation of genes at conception.
"At a population level, this provides a natural experiment analogous to a randomized trial where we can compare differences in an outcome (such as heart structure and function) with differences in BMI, without the relationship being skewed by other lifestyle and behavioral factors," said Wade.
Limitations of the Study
Most participants in the longitudinal studies were white, limiting the generalizability of the findings to other ethnic groups.
For further research, the team of researchers will plan to investigate the relationship between BMI and heart structure and function in a cohort in their 70s. They also hope to examine whether there is a correlation between higher BMI and other possible disease mechanisms such as the diversity of microbes in the gut.