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[Obesity and cardiac failure]

M Galinier, A Pathak, J Roncalli, P Massabuau
Archives des Maladies du Coeur et des Vaisseaux 2005, 98 (1): 39-45
15724418
Obesity alone is the cause of 11% of cases of cardiac failure in men and 14% of cases in women in the United States. The frequency of obesity continues to rise in our country, 41% of our compatriots being obese or overweight. It is expected that obesity will become an important cause of cardiac failure in the coming years. The Framingham study showed that, after correction for other risk factors, for every point increase in body mass index, the increase in risk of developing cardiac failure was 5% in men and 7% in women. There are three physiopathological mechanisms to explain the adverse effects of obesity on left ventricular function: an increase in ventricular preload secondary to increased plasma volume induced by the high fatty mass; an increase in left ventricular afterload due to the common association of hypertension generated by activation of the sympathetic nervous system by hyperinsulinism; and systolic and diastolic dysfunction due to changes in the myocardial genome and coronary artery disease induced by risk factors of atherosclerosis aggravated by obesity. The adipocyte also secretes a number of hormones which act directly or indirectly on the myocardium: angiotensin II, leptin, resistin, adrenomedulin, cytokines. These haemodynamic and hormonal changes profoundly modify the genetic expression of the myocardium in obesity, favourising hypertrophy of the myocyte and the development of interstitial fibrosis. Whether it be eccentric in the absence of hypertension or concentric when hypertension is associated with obesity, left ventricular hypertrophy, although normalising left ventricular wall stress, has adverse consequences causing abnormal relaxation and decreased left ventricular compliance. Therefore, in obese patients, two forms of cardiac failure may be observed. The more common is due to diastolic dysfunction, obesity being one of the principal causes of cardiac failure with preserved systolic function. Cardiac failure due to systolic dysfunction is less common and may be observed in cases with inappropriate left ventricular hypertrophy which does not normalise abnormal left ventricular wall stress leading to cardiomyopathy, and in cases with associated coronary artery disease. Whatever the underlying mechanism, the diagnosis of cardiac failure is made more difficult by obesity. From the prognostic point of view, in the global population of patients with cardiac failure, obesity improves survival because it counteracts the adverse effect of cachexia; however, obesity increases the risk of sudden death. In fact, obesity is associated with dynamic change in QT interval. In cases of cardiac failure secondary to obesity-related cardiomyopathy, loss of weight leads to an improved functional status and a reduction of left ventricular remodelling and an increase of the ejection fraction.

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