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Being overweight changes heart health in young people

Increased weight in young adults causes higher blood pressure and a thickening of the heart muscle, according to research part-funded by the British Heart Foundation and the University of Bristol and published in Circulation.

Using data and participants from Bristol’s Children of the 90s study, this is the first time that body mass index (BMI) – an internationally recognised index of weight for height – has been shown likely to have a causal link to detailed measures of cardiovascular health in a population of young, healthy people.

Researchers first looked at the relationship between BMI and routinely collected cardiovascular measures, such as blood pressure and heart rate, in more than 3,000 17-year olds. Then they worked with more than 400 21-year old participants (again from the Children of the 90s study), to undertake detailed cardiovascular scans in those who had differences in their BMI which could be anticipated by genetic data. Using a variety of methods, researchers were able to conclude that variation in BMI is likely to be causally linked to differences in cardiovascular health in young age. Until now, most studies have looked at the association between BMI and cardiovascular health in adults.