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Bulking can alter the heart

Gaining weight, even if it is only a few kilogrammes, can change your heart muscle and affect its ability to pump blood.

Lose or maintain weight

According to cardiologist Ian Neeland, M.D., people should focus on weight stability if they struggle to drop fat while on a training programme.

“Any weight gain may lead to detrimental changes in the heart above and beyond the effects of baseline weight so that prevention should focus on weight loss or if meaningful weight loss cannot be achieved — the focus should be on weight stability,” said Neeland.

Neeland was involved in new research, recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, where 1, 262 people were monitored for the duration of seven years. With the average age being 44 the subjects in the study were free from heart disease and other factors that put them at high risk for the heart disease. They had MRI scans of their hearts and a series of body fat measurements at the start of the study and then seven years later.

Neeland and colleagues found those who gained weight:

  • even as little as 5 percent, were more likely to have thickening and enlargement of the left ventricle, well-established indicators of future heart failure;
  • were more likely to exhibit subtle decreases in their hearts’ pumping ability; and
  • were more likely to exhibit changes in heart muscle appearance and function that persisted even after the researchers eliminated other factors that could affect heart muscle performance and appearance, including high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and alcohol use.

Small changes, big differences

People in the group who have lost weight during the study exhibited decreases in heart muscle thickness. On the other hand, people who have gained weight, even as little as 5 percent, are more likely to have thickening of the left side of the heart, which in medical circles is a well-established indicator of heart failure. People in this group will more likely have decreases in their heart’s pumping ability. “The heart is very dynamic, it’s very plastic. So small changes over time make big differences,” Neeland said.

According to Neeland their findings do not mean that every person with weight gain will necessarily develop heart failure. The results do however suggest that changes in weight may affect heart muscle in ways that can change the organ’s function.

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