Women who have fat stored around their heart are twice as likely to develop heart failure, new research has found.

According to American experts, men who store pericardial fat are 50 per cent more likely to develop the serious health condition.

The researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai say this study is the largest trial to link excess pericardial fat and heart failure.

Lead researcher Dr Satish Kenchaiah, Associate Professor of Medicine (Cardiology) at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said: “For nearly two decades we have known that obesity, based on simple measurement of height and weight, can double one’s risk of heart failure, but now, we have gone a step further by using imaging technology to show that excess pericardial fat, perhaps due to its location close to the heart muscle, further augments the risk of this potentially fatal condition — heart failure.

“This work provides us with an important tool to stratify patients into higher and lower risk of heart failure, which can possibly lead to early intervention and heart failure prevention to ultimately save people’s lives.”

The research revolved around CT scans from nearly 7,000 people aged between 45 and 84 from different ethnic backgrounds. None of the participants had any evidence of heart disease and they all had the fat around their hearts measured.

For more than 17 years the researchers followed the volunteers and found that almost 400 of them went on to be diagnosed with heart failure.

Once they had taken into account other risk factors such as age, smoking, alcohol consumption, sedentary lifestyle, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and heart attacks, they still found a clear link between high levels of pericardial fat and heart failure.

The research team said the link between fat around the heart and heart failure was similar among all ethnic groups, white, Black, Hispanic, and Chinese, which were included in the study.

Dr Kenchaiah said: “Our research provides strong evidence that excess pericardial fat substantially raises the risk of heart failure.

“Additional studies are needed to confirm our findings. Future research in this field should also focus on ways and means, such as eating a heart-healthy diet and staying physically active, to achieve and maintain optimal body weight and reduce and avoid fat deposition around the heart.”

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