Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Risk Of Heart Attacks May Be Increased By Fat Around The Heart

“When it comes to risk for a heart attack, having excess fat around the heart may be worse than having a high body mass index or a thick waist, according to researchers from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and colleagues reporting in the August issue of the journal Obesity. The study was among the first to explore whether there is a link between fat deposits around the heart, known as pericardial fat, and the development of hard, calcified plaque in the arteries. Calcified plaque itself is not considered risky, but it is associated with the presence of less stable fatty deposits that can lead to heart attack and stroke. ‘The distribution of body fat may be as important as the amount of body fat in determining risk of heart attacks,’ said Jingzhong Ding, M.D., lead author and an assistant professor of gerontology. ‘Even a thin person can have fat around the heart.’ In addition to its role as energy storage, fat is considered to be an "organ" that produces proteins and hormones that affect metabolism and health. Ding's study is based on a new idea in medicine - that excess fat around the heart and other organs may impair their function. Pericardial fat, or stores of fat around the heart, is known to have a higher secretion of inflammatory cytokines, proteins that regulate inflammation, than fat stored just under the skin. The scientists suspect that constant exposure of inflammatory proteins produced by fat around the heart may accelerate the development of atherosclerosis. The scientists found that while the volume of pericardial fat was related to levels of calcified coronary plaque, body mass index and waist circumference were not related.”

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