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Obesity Linked to Risk of Heart Enlargement

Hypertension also associated with left atrial enlargement in the general population

FRIDAY, Nov. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity and hypertension increase the risk of developing left atrial enlargement in the general population, according to a study in the Nov. 17 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Jan Stritzke, M.D., from the University of Lübeck in Germany, and colleagues examined the association of obesity and hypertension with left atrial volume (indexed to body height) in 1,212 German adults.

At baseline, the researchers found that 9.8 percent of subjects had left atrial enlargement, defined as a left atrial volume of 35.7 ml/m or greater for men and 33.7 ml/m or greater in women. Over 10 years, left atrial enlargement was independently predicted by obesity (odds ratio, 2.4) and hypertension (odds ratio, 2.2). Normal-weight hypertensive individuals had a significantly lower adjusted mean left atrial volume than obese normotensive individuals. Obese hypertensive adults had the highest left atrial volume (30 ml/m), the greatest increase in left atrial volume (+6 ml/m), and the highest incidence of left atrial enlargement (31.6 percent).

"In the general population, obesity appears to be the most important risk factor for left atrial enlargement," Stritzke and colleagues conclude. "Given the increasing prevalence of obesity, early interventions, especially in young obese individuals, are essential to prevent premature onset of cardiac remodeling at the atrial level."

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