Obesity may cause heart damage in symptom-free people: study

Baltimore – Obese people without obvious heart disease symptoms such as diabetes and high blood pressure still may have “silent heart damage” that puts them at greater risk for heart failure, according to a study from Johns Hopkins University.

The study tracked, for more than 12 years, more than 9,500 people 53 to 75 years old who did not have heart disease. Researchers calculated the participants’ body mass index and cardiac troponin levels.

They found that obese people had higher levels of the heart enzyme troponin T, which is released by injured heart muscle cells. Increases in the enzyme were linked to increases in BMI.

Of the 869 participants who developed heart failure, those who were severely obese (a BMI higher than 35) had more than twice the risk of developing heart failure than those of normal weight. That risk increased by 32 percent for each five-unit rise in BMI. Results also indicated that people who were severely obese and had higher troponin levels were 9 times more likely to develop heart failure than people of normal weight and indiscernible troponin levels.

Researchers recommended health providers look for heart disease in obese patients.

The study was published in the December issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Heart Failure.