Take a load off your heart

Being bighearted can be a good thing--unless excess pounds are the cause. Risk of a ballooning heart wall and related irregular beats was 50% higher in obese people compared with those at a normal, healthy weight in a 14-year study of 5,300 by Harvard researchers. Obesity may cause the heart's upper left chamber, the atrium, to stretch out and develop a too-rapid beat that's out of sync with the rest of the heart, the scientists say. The condition, called atrial fibrillation (AF), raises stroke risk by four times and doubles the risk of death. Best way to prevent an enlarged atrium: Maintain a normal weight throughout life.

Share this with your friends