Being obese as a teenager raises risk of heart disease in later years: Carrying too much weight thickens cardio muscles and raises blood pressure in adults

  • Too much weight at 17 is linked to higher blood pressure at 21 years old
  • High BMI as a teenager also causes thick heart muscles in later life
  • These both make it harder for the heart to pump blood around the body
  • Heart disease causes around one in four deaths in the UK and US 
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Being overweight as a teenager raises a person’s risk of heart disease in later life, new research suggests.

Carrying too much weight at 17 is linked to having higher blood pressure and thicker heart muscles at 21, a study found.

High blood pressure damages the heart’s arteries, which, along with thick cardio muscles, makes it harder for blood to be transported around the body, leading to coronary disease.

Lead author Dr Kaitlin Wade, from the University of Bristol, said: ‘Our results support efforts to reduce body mass index to within a normal, healthy range from a young age to prevent later heart disease.’ 

Heart disease causes around one in four deaths in the UK and US. 

Being overweight as a teenager raises a person’s risk of heart disease in later life (stock)

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A handful of walnuts a day may prevent heart disease and bowel cancer, research suggested in May 2018.

Eating just a third of a cup of walnuts for six weeks significantly reduces the production of excess bile acids, as well as lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol levels, a study found.

Previous research has linked such bile acids to bowel cancer, while lower cholesterol levels are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.

Researchers believe walnuts’ high-fibre content encourages the growth of ‘good’ bacteria in the gut, which benefits people’s heart and colon health.

The scientists also found that despite walnuts being relatively high in calories, with around 28 per nut, only 80 per cent of them are absorbed, with gut bacteria using up the remaining 20 per cent.

Results further suggest people who eat a handful of walnuts a day produce less secondary bile acids, which are made in the bowel rather than the liver like their primary counterparts.

Lead author Professor Hannah Holscher, from the University of Illinois, said: ‘Secondary bile acids have been shown to be higher in individuals with higher rates of colorectal cancer.

‘Secondary bile acids can be damaging to cells within the GI tract and microbes make those secondary bile acids.

‘If we can reduce secondary bile acids in the gut, it may also help with human health.’

How the research was carried out 

The researchers analysed the BMIs of thousands of people at 17 years old and again at 21.

These participants were first involved in the ongoing Children of the 90s study and are from the Bristol area. 

The results were published in the journal Circulation.  

‘Higher BMIs cause changes in the heart structure’ 

Speaking of the results, Dr Wade said: ‘Thickening of vessel walls is widely considered to be the first sign of atherosclerosis, a disease in which fatty plaques build up within the arteries and lead to heart disease. 

‘However, our findings suggest that higher BMIs cause changes in the heart structure of the young that may precede changes in blood vessels.’

The researchers add most of the study’s participants were white and therefore the findings may not apply to the general population.

They plan to investigate the relationship between elderly people’s BMIs and heart structures, as well as how weight affects a person’s risk of other diseases.

Handful of strawberries every day reduces the risk of dying from heart disease by 40%

This comes after research released earlier this month found eating a handful of berries every day reduces people’s risk of dying from heart disease by 40 per cent.

Antioxidants known as anthocyanins, which give the fruit their colour, lower the risk of the condition by improving artery stiffness, lowering blood pressure and reducing inflammation, a review of 25 studies found.

Some 16 per cent of heart related deaths in developed countries are caused by a low fruit intake, the research, by the University of East Anglia, adds.

Previous studies suggest a poor diet is the leading cause of heart disease fatalities worldwide. 

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