Just being obese – even if you don’t have diabetes, heart disease or ailments – is still a heavy load on your heart, researchers said on Tuesday.
A study of 27 obese people found that these “non-complicated” patients, those obese but without diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, were more likely to suffer from a stiffened aorta, making the heart’s main artery less able to expand and contract normally. A control group of 12 non-obese subjects was also studied. “It’s actually not a small subpopulation of the 300 million obese worldwide,” said Monique Robinson, cardiovascular research fellow at the University of Oxford and a study author. “The take-home message is that just being overweight or obese without disease is not OK.” The research was presented at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting in New Orleans, where obesity – a primary risk factor for heart disease – is a hot topic. In the study released Tuesday, the obese patients’ aortas were on average 40 percent less flexible than the control group’s. Earlier in the meeting, a study was presented that found people who are extremely obese are as unhealthy, and probably as likely to die, as patients with heart failure. The findings add to the growing debate over whether obesity is a disease, how to treat it and how to pay for that treatment. Medicare, the U.S. insurance plan for the elderly, is now considering whether to pay for treatments for obesity itself, rather than just the diseases that tend to accompany obesity. CMS sets reimbursement policy for millions on Medicare, and its payment decisions tend to have a ripple effect in the private insurance sector. According to U.S. government data, 30 percent of U.S. adults are obese. Leptin, a hormone produced by fat cells, appears to be the culprit in the link between obesity and heart burden, Robinson said. The hormone which is known to affect appetite, also influences inflammation in the body. Inflammation is linked to heart and artery disease.(Source: American Heart Association: Reuters Health: November 2004.)