An obese person

A new study has revealed that excess weight and body fat do cause cardiovascular disease rather than being just associated with it.

The study published in the European Heart journal showed that as body mass index (BMI) and fat mass increase the risk of a valve disease where the valve controlling the flow of blood from the heart to the aorta, narrows and fails to open fully.

The damaged valve in aortic valve stenosis means that less blood leaves the heart and it has to work harder to pump enough blood out to circulate round the body.

Blood can back up in other parts of the heart and sometimes the lungs. This can lead to shortness of breath, tiredness, fainting, chest pain and an irregular heart beat.

The researchers studied 96 genetic variants associated with BMI and body fat mass to estimate their effect on 14 cardiovascular diseases in 367,703 participants.

People who had genetic variants that predict higher BMI were at increased risk of aortic valve stenosis, heart failure, deep vein thrombosis, high blood pressure, peripheral artery disease, coronary artery disease, atrial fibrillation and pulmonary embolism.

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The researchers also found that risk of cardiovascular diseases increased with the genetic variants predicting increases in fat mass.

The study stress that although these genetic variants can predispose people to be more likely to gain excess weight, the most important factors implicated in the development of cardiovascular disease are diet and physical activity.

“The causal association between BMI and fat mass and several heart and blood vessel diseases, in particular aortic valve stenosis, was unknown. We discovered that higher BMI and fat mass are associated with an increased risk of aortic valve stenosis and most other cardiovascular diseases, suggesting that excess body fat is a cause of cardiovascular disease,” said led researcher Susanna Larsson, associate professor and senior researcher at the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden.

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