London: Being overweight as a young adult may cause higher blood pressure and thicken heart muscle, setting the stage for cardiovascular (CVD) disease in later life, a new study has found.
The findings, published in the journal Circulation, suggests higher body mass index (BMI), among the study participants, resulted in higher systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
The researchers also found being overweight also caused enlargement of the left ventricle -- the heart's main pumping chamber.
"Our results support efforts to reduce body mass index to within a normal, healthy range from a young age to prevent later heart disease," said lead author Kaitlin H. Wade from the University of Bristol Medical School in Britain.
For the study, the researchers used data on several thousand healthy youth aged between 17 and 21 years who participated in the ongoing Children of the 90s study.
"Thickening of vessel walls is widely considered to be the first sign of atherosclerosis -- a disease in which fatty plaques build up within the arteries and lead to heart disease," Wade said.
"However, our findings suggest that higher BMIs cause changes in the heart structure of the young that may precede changes in blood vessels," Wade added.
According to the researchers, this is the first study to explore if higher BMI results in adverse effects on the cardiovascular system in young adults.
The researchers also plan to investigate the relationship between higher BMI and other possible disease mechanisms, such as the abundance and diversity of microbes living in the gut.