Coronary Artery Disease and 'Outer' Fat

May 15, 2012

Obesity is a risk factor for a multitude of health conditions, including diabetes, sleep apnea and high blood pressure. Additionally, excess body fat, especially around the waist, can increase the risk for heart disease, or coronary artery disease, a leading cause of death in the United States. Coronary artery disease is a narrowing of the small blood vessels that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. In time, diminished blood flow can result in chest pain, shortness of breath or a heart attack if a complete blockage of a vessel occurs. Obesity is particularly dangerous when it is part of the metabolic syndrome, which is a pre-diabetic condition that is significantly associated with heart disease.

Scientists have proposed that dysfunctional perivascular (outer) fat is to blame in the onset of coronary artery disease, as research has shown that in people with the condition, the fat tissue is highly inflamed. However, a recent study conducted by researchers at UC increased the understanding of how coronary artery disease is triggered. The researchers performed a global gene expression analysis, which is a measurement of the activity of thousands of genes simultaneously. They found that perivascular fat tissue is different from the fat tissues in other areas of the body. The proximity of the perivascular fat to the artery easily influences the function of the coronary blood vessel wall. In animal models, the researchers saw that perivascular fat is especially sensitive to a high-fat diet, as it induced inflammation. When perivascular fat was transplanted from obese mice to an artery of lean mice, the tissue was damaging to the blood vessel wall and quickly led to disease formation. The study authors concluded that this 'cross-talk' between the coronary artery and perivascular fat is critical in the onset of coronary artery disease.

It is estimated that more than 300,000 deaths each year are caused by obesity-related illnesses. Therefore, the need to lose weight is not simply cosmetic, but lifesaving. Weight loss surgery is an effective treatment option that reduces or resolves many obesity-related conditions. You can learn more about the surgery options offered at NYU Langone Weight Management Program on our website or register to attend a free educational session.