If you're obese, you probably already have damage to your heart even though you don't have any symptoms, says a new study from Johns Hopkins. Researchers found that people who were obese had heart muscle damage although they didn't have any other risk factors for heart disease such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
An ultrasensitive blood test found that obese people had elevated levels of a protein that is the forerunner of heart disease. Known as troponin T, the enzyme is released by injured heart muscle cells. Levels of the enzyme were found to increase in direct proportion to increases in body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of body fat based on a person's weight in relation to their height.
Measuring levels of troponin T — the most recognized biomarker for heart damage — is the "gold standard" for diagnosing acute or recent heart attacks. It's used in emergency rooms to test patients with chest pain to see if they are having a heart attack. The test used in the current study detects troponin levels in ranges much lower than the clinical test for diagnosing a heart attack.
For the study, investigators measured the BMIs and cardiac troponin levels of more than 9,500 heart disease-free men and women, aged 53 to 75, and tracked their health for more than 12 years.
People who were severely obese (BMI above 35) had more than twice the risk of developing heart failure when compared to those of normal weight. But all people with elevated troponin levels, regardless of BMI, had higher risk of developing heart failure over 10 years. In other words, obesity and high troponin levels were independent indicators for heart disease risk.
Those people who were severely obese and had elevated troponin levels were nine times more likely to develop heart failure than people with normal weight and undetectable troponin levels.
The study, which is published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Heart Failure, challenges the long-held belief that much of the heart disease seen in overweight people is a result of diabetes and high blood pressure, both well-known risk factors for heart disease that occur frequently among the obese.
"Obesity is a well-known 'accomplice' in the development of heart disease, but our findings suggest it may be a solo player that drives heart failure independently of other risk factors that are often found among those with excess weight," says lead investigator Chiadi Ndumele, M.D., M.H.S., an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center. "The direct relationship we found between obesity and subclinical heart damage is quite potent and truly concerning from a public health standpoint given the growing number of obese people in the United States and worldwide."
"These results are a wake-up call that obesity may further fuel the growing rate of heart failure, and clinicians who care for obese people should not be lulled into a false sense of security by the absence of traditional risk factors, such as high cholesterol, diabetes and hypertension," says Roger Blumenthal, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease. "Obese people, even when free of cardiovascular symptoms, should be monitored for the earliest signs of heart failure and counseled on ways to improve their lifestyle habits."
© 2021 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.