Body fat hardens arteries after middle age

May 15, 2013

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 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 were using an .

In young adults, those with more body fat had less stiff arteries. However, after the age of 50 increasing body fat was associated with stiffer arteries in both men and women.

, which can be estimated by passing a small through the body, was more closely linked with artery stiffness than , which is based just on weight and height. Men are on average about 21 per cent fat and women 31 per cent fat.

The research was funded by the MRC, the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Imperial Biomedical Research Centre, and the British Heart Foundation, and published in the journal Hypertension.

Dr Declan O'Regan, who led the study, said: "The effects of having more fat seem to be different depending on your age. It looks like young people may be able to adapt to excess body fat, but by the cumulative exposure to years of obesity may start to cause permanent damage to the arteries. One implication is that the potential beneficial effects of weight loss may depend on your age and how long you have been overweight. This is something we plan to study further.

"We don't know for sure how body fat makes arteries stiffer, but we do know that 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."

Explore further: Mice fed a high-fat diet show signs of artery damage after only 6 weeks

More information: B Corden et al. 'Body Fat Is Associated With Reduced Aortic Stiffness Until Middle Age' Hypertension, June 2013. DOI: 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.113.01177

Related Stories

Mice fed a high-fat diet show signs of artery damage after only 6 weeks

April 3, 2012
High fat diets cause damage to blood vessels earlier than previously thought, and these structural and mechanical changes may be the first step in the development of high blood pressure. These findings in mice, by Marie Billaud ...

Just 'weight' until menopause: How estrogen deficiency affects women's fat absorption

March 27, 2013
Women tend to carry excess fat in their hips and thighs, while men tend to carry it on their stomachs. But after menopause, things start to change: many women's fat storage patterns start to resemble those of men. This indicates ...

Newly discovered human fat cell opens up new opportunities for future treatment of obesity

May 2, 2013
The body's brown fat cells play a key role in the development of obesity and diabetes. Researchers at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have now discovered that we humans have two different kinds of brown ...

'I'm not just fat, I'm old!'

February 20, 2013
Similar to talking about being fat, talking about being old is an important an indicator of body dissatisfaction, shows research in BioMed Central's open access journal Journal of Eating Disorders.

Nobody likes a 'fat-talker,' study shows

May 9, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—Women who engage in "fat talk"—the self-disparaging remarks girls and women make in relation to eating, exercise or their bodies—are less liked by their peers, a new study from the University of Notre ...

Study finds that just one high-fat meal can affect your heart health

October 30, 2012
Eat a breakfast sandwich and your body will be feeling the ill effects well before lunch – now that's fast food!

Recommended for you

Could aggressive blood pressure treatments lead to kidney damage?

July 18, 2017
Aggressive combination treatments for high blood pressure that are intended to protect the kidneys may actually be damaging the organs, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests.

Quantifying effectiveness of treatment for irregular heartbeat

July 17, 2017
In a small proof-of-concept study, researchers at Johns Hopkins report a complex mathematical method to measure electrical communications within the heart can successfully predict the effectiveness of catheter ablation, the ...

Concerns over side effects of statins stopping stroke survivors taking medication

July 17, 2017
Negative media coverage of the side effects associated with taking statins, and patients' own experiences of taking the drugs, are among the reasons cited by stroke survivors and their carers for stopping taking potentially ...

Study discovers anticoagulant drugs are being prescribed against safety advice

July 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the University of Birmingham has shown that GPs are prescribing anticoagulants to patients with an irregular heartbeat against official safety advice.

Protein may protect against heart attack

July 14, 2017
DDK3 could be used as a new therapy to stop the build-up of fatty material inside the arteries

Heart study finds faulty link between biomarkers and clinical outcomes

July 14, 2017
Surrogate endpoints (biomarkers), which are routinely used in clinical research to test new drugs, should not be trusted as the ultimate measure to approve new health interventions in cardiovascular medicine, according to ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.