Fat Around Heart May Lead to Artery Disease

Patients who do not have coronary artery disease but have fat around their hearts appear more likely to develop atherosclerosis, a team of researchers in Germany found.

Patients who do not have coronary artery disease but have fat around their hearts appear more likely to develop atherosclerosis, a team of researchers in Germany found.

In an article published online Sept. 1 in JACC: Cardiovascular Imaging

and reported in an abstract at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Barcelona, Spain, lead author Amir Mahabadi, MD, and colleagues said the presence of such adipose tissue can be a useful predictor of the disease.

That was even true for people in the study who had a healthy body weight.

Known as epicardial adipose tissue (EAT), the fat was measured by taking CT scans to see how much EAT was inside a subject’s pericardial sac—the membrane that surrounds the heart.

Researchers already knew that EAT is associated with heart disease and conditions leading to it. The question was whether EAT could actually cause or worsen atherosclerosis development.

Participants were 3,367 residents of three German cities aged 45 to 75.

The study found that in participants who had low levels of coronary artery calcification (CAC) at the start of the study, the more EAT they had, the faster CAC progressed. That was particularly true for subjects 45 to 65 years old, and for those who were not overweight. EAT itself may “influence progression of coronary atherosclerosis above and beyond overall body fat, Mahabadi wrote.