Morbidly obese people are more than two times as likely to have heart failure than those with a healthy body weight, though they are not more likely to have other cardiovascular problems like stroke or heart disease, according to John Hopkins researchers.
The researchers could not explain the link, even after accounting for other risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol and diabetes that are known to be connected to extra weight. It may be the weight puts higher demand on the heart and fat may release toxic molecules.
The study, published online in the Journal of the American Heart Association, suggests that while there are treatments for other heart related maladies, weight loss may be the only sure-fire approach to stave off heart failure.
“Obesity in our study has emerged as one of the least explained and likely most challenging risk factors for heart failure because there is no magic pill to treat it, no drugs that can easily address the problem like there are for high cholesterol and high blood pressure,” says Dr. Chiadi Ndumele, assistant professor of medicine and member of theCiccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease at Hopkins' School of Medicine. “Even with diet and exercise, people struggle to lose weight and keep it off, and for the morbidly obese, the struggle is often insurmountable.”
About a third of Americans are obese and more than five percent morbidly obese. And almost six million people have heart failure, where an enlarged or weakened heart muscle diminishes the heart’s efficiency, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those suffering from heart failure often are short of breath and fatigued and have swollen ankles.
In the pool of records reviewed for the study, which was funded by grants from theNational Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the higher the body mass index, the higher the risk for heart failure.
“Even if my patients have normal blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure levels, I believe I still have to worry that they may develop heart failure if they are severely obese,” Ndumele said in a statement. “If our data are confirmed, we need to improve our strategies for heart failure prevention in this population.”
The number of people going to hospital in the UK with heart disease and stroke is rising, new figures have revealed.
There were 1.69 million hospital visits for cardiovascular disease (CVD) in 2013 to 2014 across the UK, which is up from 1.64 million in 2010 to 2011.
However, deaths from CVD - which includes heart disease, strokes and peripheral artery disease - are decreasing, figures from the British Heart Foundation show.
The charity warned up to seven million people in the UK are currently living with cardiovascular disease - but the death rate has fallen from around 341,000 deaths in 1979 to 155,000 deaths in 2014.
It said better diagnosis and treatments have helped to dramatically cut the number of deaths from heart disease and stroke while an increasing and ageing population may be prompting the higher numbers of hospital visits.
It is also calling for more research to help prevent, diagnose and treat heart disease as the increasing hospital visits for CVD is placing a massive burden on the healthcare system.
The Oxford University researchers, commissioned by the BHF, looked at a range of materials including trends in hospital admissions, prevalence, and treatment data along with mortality and population data from the UK's national statistics agencies.
They also looked at a range of surveys including Health Surveys of England and Scotland General Lifestyle Survey (GLS) along with data on hospital admissions and diagnosis from National Health Service records.
The researchers suggested potentially higher levels of deprivation might help to explain why Scotland had the highest death rates and prevalence of CVD in the UK
They found that 4.3 per cent of Scotland's population was living with coronary heart disease, compared with 3.9 per cent of those living in both Wales and Northern Ireland, and 3.3 per cent in England.
Coronary heart disease death rates decreased by 72 per cent in England, 70 per cent in Wales, 71 per cent in Scotland and 76 per cent in Northern Ireland between 1979 and 2013.
Researcher Dr Nick Townsend, of the University of Oxford, said: 'Despite large reductions in mortality from CVD, coronary heart disease (CHD), and stroke, these conditions have remained a substantial burden to the UK, with rises in treatment and hospital admissions for all CVD.'
Immediate hospital treatment is the best option for someone who is suffering a heart attack or stroke, according to Professor Peter Weissberg of the BHF.
He called for more research to try and find a way to eradicate atherosclerosis, a potentially serious condition where arteries become clogged with fatty substances.
The study is to be published in the journal Heart.