Overweight & Heart Disease

Scientists in Belfast are investigating the long-term consequences of becoming overweight in a bid to find out how being ‘cuddly’, ‘portly’ or simply too large can increase the risk of an early grave.

Current thinking suggests that being very overweight can increase the risk of having a heart attack. However the Belfast scientists’ previous research found that being only ‘slightly overweight’ might not increase the risk of a heart attack in the short-term, although the long-term picture isn’t as clear.

Therefore, the team’s next step is to examine how being only moderately overweight can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, angina and stroke. They also hope to discover why being overweight alters the metabolism and makes diabetes more likely. The team is particularly interested in exploring ‘central obesity’, which is abdominal fat around the waist rather than the hips.

Lead researcher at Queen’s, Dr John Yarnell, says, “In the UK, as in many parts of the West, the proportion of overweight adults and children has risen sharply. Some consequences of this on the health of our heart and circulation are recognised but, still, little is known about the impact of being only moderately overweight and where the extra fat is located on length of life and on illness.

“We plan to examine the relationship between obesity, diabetes and inflammation so that we can discover how these factors increase the risk to our hearts.”

Lynn Brown, the BHF’s Director for Northern Ireland adds, “We already know that around 8% of the UK’s 137,000 deaths from heart attacks are linked to obesity so extra research in this area is a welcome addition, which the BHF is very pleased to fund.

“As well as research projects we are also funding many education and care initiatives that may help people reduce their weight to sensible levels. This research is one more link in the chain of heart health that will benefit the people of Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.”

The Charity has a range of free booklets available to help people get to a sensible weight. These include ‘How to Lose Weight for Good’, Eating for Your Heart and ‘Physical Activity and Your Heart’. For copies contact the BHF at 14 Fitzhardinge St, London W1H 6DH or download them from our website at www.bhf.org.uk.

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