Putting on weight can increase heart size

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Image: Getty Images
Image: Getty Images

But a new study, the first of its kind into healthy individuals, has found that putting on weight can make the heart bigger and heavier, increasing the chances of suffering a stroke or heart attack.

Piling on the pounds can add up to eight grams onto the heart and boost its volume by around five per cent - dangerous results when the ticker is meant to reduce in size as people get older.

Experts from Queen Mary University of London and the University of Oxford came to their conclusions by analysing MRI scans of over 4,560 people from the U.K. Biobank database. When people's body mass index (BMI) went up by 4.3, which would push someone to the brink of being obese, their hearts became dramatically heavier.

With a bigger heart, the chambers are forced to stretch and this has a negative effect on the signals required to maintain a regular heartbeat.

"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," Professor Steffen Petersen, lead author at Queen Mary, said. "With this research, we've helped to show how an unhealthy lifestyle increases your risk of heart disease."

The heart's weight was calculated by using measurements obtained by the scans. When BMI went up by 4.3, the left side of the heart increased in weight by 8.3 per cent.

These findings refer to people whose BMI rose from a healthy 25 to 29.3, which is almost at the obesity rate of 30, and men in this category would see eight grams added to their heart, while women's hearts could be increased by around six grams.

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