The human heart is the hardest working organ in the entire body. It begins beating while the baby is still in the womb and continues until the day they die. This is an absolute requirement to sustain human life as oxygen and nutrients need to be circulated throughout the body.
Despite knowing that our heart very important to us, it is taken for granted. We eat unhealthy diets and don’t get enough exercise, leading to poor heart health. Now, a new study has found that being overweight causes direct damage to the heart.
This self-inflicted damage is caused by things we have control over, called modifiable risk factors.
Assessing modifiable risk factors
The study in question used magnetic resonance imaging to carefully study the structure and function of the heart. Patient information from the UK Biobank databank was gathered from over 4,500 people for the study.
A range of lifestyle risk factors including blood pressure, smoking status, body mass index (BMI), exercises, cholesterol, alcohol intake, and diabetes were assessed and they adjusted for risk factors that can’t be modified. These criteria were measured for their effects on the four chambers of the heart.
The researchers showed that all the risk factors mentioned could have varying effects on the heart, but an overall increase in heart weight was linked to overweight and obese individuals.
Being overweight damages the heart
While the connection between obesity and heart damage isn’t new, the study was able to see and measure the direct damage that modifiable risk factors have on the structure and function of the heart.
The most troubling thing is that this impact is silent, with many overweight individuals not knowing they are causing themselves harm.
“We all know that our lifestyle has a big impact on our heart health—particularly if we’re overweight or obese. But researchers haven’t fully understood how exactly the two things are linked. With this research, we’ve helped to show how an unhealthy lifestyle increases your risk of heart disease. BMI and blood pressure, in particular, led to heavier and bigger hearts, which increases the risk of heart problems, including heart attacks,” said Professor Steffen Petersen, lead author at QMUL’s William Harvey Research Institute
The researchers want to make people aware that at some point, our hearts will not be able to make up for our poor lifestyle choices, and this will inevitably lead to irreversible damage.
Related: 9 factors that increase your risk of a heart attack