Don't make your heart hate you. Even if you can squeeze into your jeans by sucking in your gut, those extra pounds you’ve packed on are still c...
Even if you can squeeze into your jeans by sucking in your gut, those extra pounds you’ve packed on are still cause for concern: A one-unit increase in your body mass index (BMI)—just a 7-pound gain for a 5’9″, 180-pound guy—boosts your risk of congestive heart failure by about 20 percent, says a new study in PLOS Medicine.
Scientists analyzed the health records of nearly 200,000 adults, paying close attention to people’s BMI and FTO gene, which regulates appetite. As in previous studies, subjects with certain variants of the gene had a higher BMI than those without them, but people with the variants also had a great risk of heart failure, which hasn’t been shown before.
What happens: “The FTO variants increase BMI, which causes heart failure through effects on blood pressure, insulin resistance, and lipid levels as well as increased workload on the heart,” says study coauthor Tove Fall, Ph.D., of Uppsala University in Sweden.
Fall says it’s your actual weight, and not so much your FTO variant, that’s dangerous. “Most people should aim to have a BMI that’s less than 25 throughout life, regardless of genotype,” he says. You can figure out your BMI here, but note that BMI doesn’t differentiate between types of tissue. A muscular linebacker or bodybuilder might have a high BMI—since the measure is based on your weight—but still be very lean. Muscle is not the issue here. The concern is excess body-fat—so the mirror is also a good indicator.
Still, it can be tricky for people with the FTO gene variant to maintain a healthy weight. But according to a study in PLOS ONE, regular physical activity such as taking a brisk walk can cut your genetic tendency toward obesity by about 40 percent, which can keep your heart healthy for years to come.
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