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Oct 27, 2011

Leptin May Link Obesity and Heart Failure Risk

Hormones may help explain why obesity increases heart failure risk.

Over the years, a number of conditions have been established as risk factors for heart failure, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. These conditions tend to weaken or harden the walls of the heart over time, which prevent the heart from pumping enough blood to the rest of the body, resulting in heart failure. However, the exact relationship between risk factors and heart failure is not always clear. For example, although there is a clear link between obesity and increased risk for heart failure, the exact cause of this relationship has remained uncertain — until now.

A study published by the American College of Cardiology reported that a hormone called leptin may help explain why obesity increases risk for heart failure. In this study, researchers identified 4,080 British men, all of whom were free of heart failure at the beginning of the study, and followed them for an average of 9 years. They found that leptin nearly doubled risk for heart failure in men without heart disease, yet had no effect on that risk among men with heart disease. Meanwhile, obesity greatly increased risk for heart failure among men with and without heart disease — increasing risk for heart failure by 50% in men without heart disease and doubling risk for heart failure in men with heart disease.

Results of this study help provide new information about treating obesity and preventing the development of heart failure in certain populations. If leptin is in fact the link between obesity and heart failure, researchers can learn how to best intervene, possibly preventing both overweight or obesity and heart failure. However, additional research is needed to better understand the role of leptin in the body and how it relates to obesity and heart failure.
Read this Article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is leptin?

  • Leptin is a type of hormone that helps regulate energy, metabolism and appetite. Research has shown that some people may be resistant to leptin, and their bodies fail to respond to the hormone correctly. This may cause them to have an increased appetite, store more fat than others and gain weight.
  • What are common heart failure symptoms?

  • Heart failure symptoms often present themselves slowly but progress and worsen over time. These symptoms include shortness of breath; swelling of feet, ankles or abdomen; fatigue; cough and weight gain.

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