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Too Many Pounds = Heart Trouble

If you're seriously overweight or obese, you are at increased risk of heart failure, period. This remains true whether or not you have any other risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. This news comes from a 12-year long study showing that levels of a predictive heart enzyme signal silent damage to the heart among overweight and obese individuals. Researchers from Johns Hopkins tested more than 9,500 men and women ages 53 to 75 who were free of heart disease for the enzyme, troponin T. This blood marker is considered the gold standard for diagnosing ongoing or recent heart attacks in patients who come to emergency rooms with chest pain. After testing, the investigators followed the study participants for more than 12 years. During that time, 869 of the participants developed heart failure. When the investigators looked at the participants' troponin T test results, they saw that levels of this enzyme were much lower than they are in heart attack patients. However, troponin T levels rose as body mass index (BMI) increased, the researchers reported. They found that severely obese individuals with elevated troponin levels were nine times more likely to develop heart failure than study participants of normal weight with undetectable troponin levels, and that this additional risk persisted even after accounting for other possible causes of heart damage. 

My take? This interesting study shows that you don't get a free pass for being overweight or obese, even if you're otherwise relatively risk free for heart disease. The findings suggest that obesity alone increases your risk, and the authors made the point that their results are an "alarm bell" for physicians to monitor their obese patients rigorously for emerging signs of heart disease. Bear in mind that heart disease isn't the only threat obesity poses to health - it also increases the risk of stroke, kidney and gallbladder disease, some types of cancer as well as osteoarthritis and sleep apnea.

Salty Foods Can Age Overweight Teens’ Cells

The salt contained in the junk foods and fast foods so many overweight and obese teens consume may be aging their cells, a process that can lead to heart disease. A study presented at this year’s American Heart Association’s Epidemiology & Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity & Metabolism Scientific Sessions found that the protective ends of chromosomes (telomeres), which normally shorten with age, were significantly shorter in overweight and obese teens whose sodium intake was high compared to teens who consumed less sodium. In normal weight teens, sodium consumption didn’t affect telomere length. Obesity is associated with increased levels of inflammation, which also speeds telomere shortening, and carrying extra pounds appears to boost sensitivity to salt. The findings suggest that high sodium intake and obesity may act synergistically to accelerate cellular aging, according to study leader Haidong Zhu, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Medical College of Georgia. The solution: cutting back on salty foods may help and may be an easier first step toward health for overweight teens than losing weight, Zhu said. High sodium intake among the teens in the study averaged 4,142 milligrams per day; low-intake averaged 2,388 mg per day. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium intake to 1,500 mg per day.

Haidong Zhu, et al "High sodium intake is associated with short leukocyte telomere length in overweight and obese adolescents," AHA EPI/NPAM 2014; Abstract #MP64. American Heart Association Epidemiology & Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity & Metabolism Scientific Sessions 2014