Heart fat measured with cardiac CTs 'could indicate coronary disease'

17 August 2011

The build-up of fat around the heart could increase the risk of people developing coronary disease and other associated heart problems, claims a new study.

Compared to high body mass index readings or waist circumference, pericardial fat is far more strongly related to these conditions, according to a paper published in the Radiology journal.

The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis sampled 183 individuals and measured ratios of artery wall thickness - which can be used as an indicator of the disease - using a cardiac MRI, along with the total volume of pericardial fat using a cardiac CT.

"Pericardial fat is located behind the sternum around the heart and we cannot see it except with CT or MRI," said Dr David A Bluemke, director of radiology and imaging sciences at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Care.

He added that the fat build-up "further promote[d] coronary artery plaque", a key causer of the disease, particularly among men. Weight gain or patient obesity could accelerate this accumulation.

Meanwhile, research published in the Lancet last week found that among women, smoking seemed to increase the chance of developing heart disease over men by 25 per cent.

Posted by Edward Bartel

1 Bluemke, David A., "The Association of Pericardial Fat with Coronary Artery Plaque Index at MR Imaging: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)". Radiology. Tuesday August 16th 2011.

2 Huxley, Rachel R., Woodward, Mark, " Cigarette smoking as a risk factor for coronary heart disease in women compared with men: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies". The Lancet, Early Online Publication. Thursday August 11th 2011.

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