In a new study, researchers have confirmed that too much body fat and weight may lead to cause a range of heart and blood vessel diseases.
They also have found that as the body mass index (BMI) and fat mass increase, so does the risk of an artery disease called aortic valve stenosis.
This is a condition in which the valve controlling the flow of blood from the heart to the body’s largest blood vessel, the aorta, narrows and fails to open fully.
This means that less blood leaves the heart and it has to work harder to pump enough blood out to circulate around the body.
Blood can back up in other parts of the heart and sometimes the lungs and lead to shortness of breath, tiredness, fainting, chest pain and an irregular heartbeat.
The research was conducted by a team from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden.
In the study, the team used a new method called Mendelian randomization. This method is a way of showing whether or not individual risk factors actually cause disease, rather than just being associated with it.
It uses genetic variants that are already known to be associated with potential risk factors, such as BMI and body fat, as indirect indicators for these risk factors.
This helps researchers to discover whether the risk factor is the cause of the disease (rather than the other way around), and reduces bias in results.
The researchers examined 96 genetic variants linked to BMI and body fat mass to estimate their effect on 14 types of heart and blood vessel diseases in 367,703 people aged 40-69 years.
They found that higher BMI and fat mass are linked to an increased risk of aortic valve stenosis and most other diseases, such as heart failure, high blood pressure, peripheral artery disease, coronary artery disease, and atrial fibrillation (a heart rhythm disorder).
Moreover, for every genetically-predicted 1kg/m2 increase in BMI, the risk for aortic valve stenosis increases by 13%.
The researchers stress that although these genetic variants can predispose people to be more likely to gain excess weight, the most important factors are diet and physical activity.
Overeating and lack of physical activity are the major causes of overweight and can greatly harm heart health.
The damaged valve in aortic valve stenosis The leader of the study is Susanna Larsson, associate professor, and senior researcher.
The study is published in the European Heart Journal.
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