Losing weight, even after five years of being overweight or obese, could half your risk of obesity-related heart disease, new research claims.
Researchers found people who are overweight or obese for 10 years are twice as likely to develop heart disease due to higher levels of the protein, troponin, which indicates heart damage.
This was the case even in those who didn't have high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease.
The findings, published in the journal Clinical Chemistry, suggests people go on a diet as soon as they pile on the pounds because the number of years spent overweight can 'add up' to a risk factor for heart damage.
People who are overweight for an extended period of time are more likely to develop heart disease, new research claims
'What our findings suggest is that even in the absence of such heart disease risk factors as high blood pressure, diabetes, or kidney disease, the number of years spent obese or overweight contributes to the higher likelihood of heart damage,' said researcher Dr Chiadi Ndumele, assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University.
A previous study conducted by Dr Ndumele and his colleagues in 2014 linked excessive weight to silent heart damage as detected by elevated troponin levels of 14 nanograms per liter or higher — an indicator of heart damage identified with a blood protein test.
Troponin is released when the heart muscle has been damaged. The more damage there is to the heart, the greater amount of this protein will be in the blood.
For the current study, Dr Ndumele and his colleagues evaluate how being overweight over an extended period of time affects the heart.
They collected data from on more than 9,000 people involved in the federally funded Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study.
Participants were recruited from 1987 through 1989 and were seen four times through 1998 to assess body mass index, history of heart disease, and levels of high sensitivity troponin in the blood.
Nearly 23 percent of participants had an increase in body mass index (BMI) from the first visit to the fourth visit. In addition, 3,748 participants were overweight, with a BMI between 25 and 29.9, and 3,184 were obese, with a BMI of 30 and higher. Roughly 5 percent showed a decreased BMI and 72 percent remained the same.
Researchers found that for each decade spent obese, people's risk of having elevated troponin increased 1.25 times, even when accounting for heart disease risk due to high blood pressure, diabetes, and kidney disease.
Dr Ndumele found people who were obese during the first and fourth visits were twice as likely to have increased troponin levels than those who maintained a normal weight - a BMI between 18 and 24.9 - throughout the study.
Those who were obese at both the fourth visit and at age 25 were almost four times more likely to have increased troponin levels.
'It's challenging to effectively communicate future risk to young people who seem perfectly healthy and at the prime of their lives,' Dr Ndumele said.
However, previous studies have shown exercise and weight loss could reverse heart damage.
Research published earlier this year in the American Heart Association's journal Circulation found exercise could reverse damage to aging hearts and help prevent risk of future heart failure.
Another study published in Circulation in 2010 revealed eating healthy and losing weight can reverse atherosclerosis - the accumulation of fatty deposits - a condition linked to coronary artery disease.
However, Dr Ndumele said that while there is evidence that losing weight even after decades of obesity or being overweight may help heal the heart, the extent to which it can heal is unknown.
More than 70 percent of adults over the age of 20 were overweight and obese in 2013-2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Obesity has been linked to many chronic health conditions, including heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the US, killing more than half a million people each year, according to the CDC.
It has also been linked to stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, including pancreatic cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer.
Sources : Dailymail
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