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Appalachia Health News tells the story of our health challenges and how we overcome them throughout the region. 

Even a Small Amount of Weight Gain Can Damage the Heart

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Weight gain, even among those who aren’t overweight, can causes dangerous changes to the heart, new research from the University of Texas Medical Center has found.

Researchers found that as little as a five percent increase in weight – or 6.5 pounds for a 130-pound woman, 7.5 pounds for a 150-pound man – can result in the heart getting bigger and thicker, which makes it harder for the heart to work efficiently. Thicker heart walls also reduced the amount of space the heart has to pump out blood. Thicker hearts can lead to heart failure.

More than 70 percent of West Virginians are overweight or obese. The researchers found that regardless of the weight people start at, gaining weight damages the heart and losing weight improves the heart. But the most important thing to consider is not to gain weight, says the researchers, especially through middle age when people tend to gain a pound or two a year.

Researchers reviewed more than 1,200 MRI images of patients' hearts before and after seven years. The report was published this month in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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