Now even your weight can be an indicator of how healthy your heart is. An Indian study, the first of its kind in south Asia, has found that obese people are at risk of cardiac dysfunction even if they are healthy and have no other risk factor traditionally associated with heart disease, such as family history of heart problems, diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure) or abnormal lipids (blood fats).
For the study, obesity was defined as a person with a body mass index (BMI) — calculated by a person’s weight in kilograms (kg) divided by his height in metres (m) squared — of over 25, which is the international cut-off for obesity.
Cardiologist Dr D S Chadha,who conducted a study on patients who came for a routine six-monthly check-up, found out, “In healthy Indians with no symptoms of heart disease, obesity alone was a risk factor. The more the weight, the higher the effect of obesity on heart function.”
The risk to the heart keeps increasing as you pack in more fat. “Almost 80 per cent people (both men and women) in our study who were obese had
compromised heart function. The good news is that studies elsewhere have shown that if controlled at an early stage, the changes to heart function are reversible and there is no permanent damage to the heart’s structure and function,” says Dr Chadha.
The study was published in the international medical journal Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders earlier this week. For the study, data from routine, annual health check-ups of healthy men and women aged 17 to 64 years was used.
Obesity puts increased pressure on the heart by forcing it to pump blood over a larger surface area.
New findings show that quite like fatty deposits in the liver and leg muscles, excess fat also gets deposited between muscle fibres in the heart, restricting its normal functioning. “We used BMI cut-off of 25, but people in India and south Asia should target a BMI of 23 as we tend to have smaller frames and less muscle mass, which weighs more than fat, than Caucasians,” says Dr Anoop Misra, director and head of diabetes and metabolic diseases, Fortis hospitals.
Obesity guidelines for India recommend a BMI of under 23. Becoming active is a good way to start. A large international study reported late last year that people who are overweight and active have lower risk than people who are thin and inactive. “Most people go to doctors for heart and other medical check-ups after the symptoms start, but by then it is too late to consider reversing the damage to heart function. The message we have is simple enough. Do not let go of your health and put on weight. If for some reason you do, get back on track by losing weight,” says Dr Chadha.
So add shopping for a pair of tracks to your to-do list. They will cost you a fraction of the medical bills you’ll run up if you just read this column and forget all about it.