A new UK study has found that being overweight or obese can change the structure of the heart, which could lead to heart disease and failure.
Carried out by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), the teamed used data from 4,561 people to show the direct damage that can happen to the heart's weight and size from carrying extra weight.
The team used cardiac magnetic resonance imaging to study the structure and function of the hearts of the participants, and looked at the effects of modifiable risk factors, including blood pressure, smoking status, body mass index (BMI), exercise, cholesterol, alcohol intake and diabetes, on the four chambers of the heart.
Although previous studies have already proven the link between high BMI and heart disease they have mainly shown how it can increase blood pressure, cholesterol and the risk of developing diabetes -- all risk factors for heart disease.
Commenting on the results, lead author Professor Steffen Petersen said, "We all know that our lifestyle has a big impact on our heart health -- particularly if we're overweight or obese. But researchers haven't fully understood how exactly the two things are linked."
"With this research, we've helped to show how an unhealthy lifestyle increases your risk of heart disease. BMI and blood pressure in particular led to heavier and bigger hearts, which increases the risk of heart problems, including heart attacks."
Professor Sir Nilesh Samani, Medical Director of the British Heart Foundation, also added, "This research shows the silent impact of being overweight and having high blood pressure on the structure and function of the heart, which over time may lead to heart disease and heart failure. The important message is that these are things we have the power to change before they result in irreversible heart damage."
The research can be found published online in the journal PLoS ONE.