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Expatriate Health Insurance News: Obesity 'makes heart disease harder to identify'

Obesity can substantially hinder the treatment and diagnosis of heart disease, although it is a major contributor to the ailment.

This is according to preventive cardiologist Dr Shelton Litwin, who is investigating the impact of weight loss and obesity on cardiac health.

Around half of Dr Litwin's patients at Georgia Health Science's Health System have heart disease that is related to obesity, with some other contributing factors including diabetes, hypertension and shortness of breath.

As a result, he said that obesity "really is the number one issue facing us".

The doctor revealed that 25-year-olds are coming to the medical centre complaining of shortness of breath or chest pains, with some of these attendees weighing as much as 350 pounds.

"Everything from the heart disease process to its diagnosis and treatment are affected by obesity," he argued, saying the issue is of "enormous magnitude".

For example, it can prevent X-rays or sound waves from working properly, which can cause the images that result from heart disease diagnostic tests to be inconclusive.

Furthermore, the tables on which people who require a cardiac catheterisation lie typically cannot accommodate individuals who weigh more than 400 pounds.

International healthcare centres are unlikely to have equipment to adapt to these issues for a number of years, while the images produced through diagnostic tools might still not improve.

A recent study by Dr Litwin that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that gastric bypasses could improve the cardiovascular health of obese patients.

People who had this treatment experienced a downsizing of the pumping chamber in their hearts, as well as a reduction in levels of sleep apnoea, diabetes, blood pressure, lipid levels and other risk factors.

"I would much rather see everybody out there riding their bikes, walking, running, going to the gym," Dr Litwin said, adding: "No question that is better than having surgery."

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