A new study reveals that putting on extra weight can substantially alter the size of your heart, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke. A bigger, heavier heart stretches its upper chambers, causing atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeats.
The chances of you carrying excess weight is increased when you consume high amounts of energy — such as fats and sugars — without engaging in physical activity. A body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 30 translates to you having 10 to 20 percent more weight than what is considered healthy for your height. When a person has a BMI of 30 or more, he or she is considered obese. This condition increases the likelihood of severe health problems, particularly those concerning the heart. In 2016, more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight and over 650 million were obese, or about 13 percent of the world’s adult population, according to research published in PLOS ONE.
Bigger doesn’t always mean better
After examining the MRI scans of 4,561 people from the U.K. Biobank database, the researchers at Queen Mary University of London and the University of Oxford found that an increase of 4.3 points in one’s BMI increased the weight of the heart by 8.3 percent. This bracket included people with a BMI of 25 to 29, which is considered overweight and borderline obese.
This is the first evidence of a relationship between changes to the structure of the heart in relation to body weight. The results revealed that men in this group would add about eight grams to their heart, which weighs 65 to 141 grams, while the women would add six grams to their heart’s average of 93 grams.
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Dietary habits and physical activity are key factors in developing, or countering, excess weight. Study author Professor Steffen Peterse believes that lifestyle decisions greatly influence the risks to a person’s heart.
“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,” Peterse said. “With this research, we’ve helped to show how an unhealthy lifestyle increases your risk of heart disease.”
Medical director at the British Heart Foundation, Professor Sir Nilesh Samani said: “This research shows the silent impact of being overweight and having high blood pressure on the structure and function of the heart, which over time may lead to heart disease and heart failure. The important message is that these are things we have the power to change before they result in irreversible heart damage.”
Obesity is associated with the comforts of urban life — plentiful food and modern transportation — which leads to sedentary behaviors that affect a person’s overall health. Increasing demand in productivity and flexibility in the workplace has also been linked to obesity and its related diseases.
Actively adjusting your lifestyle decisions may reduce and even reverse these risks.