More than a high BMI, an 'obese heart' is a silent risk

Prof Lea Delbridge from the Department of Physiology features in Pursuit and The Conversation discussing world-first research on heart health and Atrial Fibrillation (AF).

New research shows that fat tissue around the heart releases molecules that alter heart rhythm, identifying potential new targets for preventative therapies for heart disease.

More than two thirds of Australians are now overweight or obese.

More than just a statistic, this figure is concerning because obesity is associated with a number of long-term health issues including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, musculoskeletal disease, disability and has recently emerged as a risk factor in COVID-19 morbidity.

Of these, heart disease is Australia’s biggest killer. And irregular heart rhythms, known as atrial fibrillation (AF), are an early phase of heart disease, which can lead to stroke, heart failure and, eventually, death.

AF is also associated with accelerated dementia and depression.

In Australia, one in 11 deaths are linked to atrial fibrillation with an economic cost of more than $A1.25 billion per year. Described as a ‘silent killer’, many people with AF have no symptoms and it is often difficult to diagnose.

It has been known for some time that obesity is a critical risk factor for AF. Each unit increase in body mass index (BMI) increases AF risk by four to five per cent.

So, developing new preventative therapies for treating AF is crucial to reducing the public health and economic burden of this disease.

The  latest study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has highlighted that the build-up of fat around the heart is especially dangerous for heart health – showing a link between the fat deposit on the surface of the heart muscle with atrial fibrillation.

Read more on Pursuit

This research was also featured by numerous news media throughout the world, including:

MDHS Twitter

MDHS Twitter poll

Royal Melbourne Hospital

The Conversation

The New Daily

Fox News

Channel 7