Having too much body fat makes arteries become stiff after middle age, a new study has revealed.
In young people, blood vessels appear to be able to compensate for the effects of obesity. But after middle age, this adaptability is lost, and arteries become progressively stiffer as body fat rises - potentially increasing the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
The researchers suggest that the harmful effects of body fat may be related to the total number of years that a person is overweight in adulthood. Further research is needed to find out when the effects of obesity lead to irreversible damage to the heart and arteries, they said.
Obesity is known to be a major risk factor for heart disease, but the reasons for this are not fully understood.
Researchers at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Clinical Sciences Centre at Imperial College London scanned 200 volunteers to measure the speed of blood flow in the aorta, the biggest artery in the body. Blood travels more quickly in stiff vessels than in healthy elastic vessels, so this allowed them to work out how stiff the walls of the aorta were using an MRI scanner.
Certain metabolic products in the blood may progressively damage the elastic fibres in our blood vessels. Understanding these processes might help us to prevent the harmful effects of obesity.
The above story is based on the Wednesday 15 May 2013 news release by Imperial College London.
The research has been published online in Hypertension, the scientific journal of the American Heart Association:
Corden B, Keenan NG, de Marvao ASM, Dawes TJW, DeCesare A, Diamond T, Durighel G, Hughes AD, Cook SA, O'Regan DP. Body Fat Is Associated With Reduced Aortic Stiffness Until Middle Age. Hypertension, 2013; DOI: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.113.01177
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