Nav: Home

Size, strength of heart's right side differs by age, gender, race/ethnicity

June 06, 2011

The size and pumping ability of the right side of the heart differs by age, gender and race/ethnicity, according to the first large imaging study of the right ventricle.

The study, reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, also suggests that understanding the fundamental differences in the right side of the heart gives doctors and researchers a basis for determining what is abnormal. The researchers think that changes in right ventricle size and function may be a sign of cardiopulmonary disease (conditions that involve both the heart and lungs).

"The right ventricle pumps blood to the lungs to pick up oxygen, so all types of lung diseases -- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, and sleep apnea -- can affect the right side of the heart," said Steven Kawut, M.D., M.S., study author. "These results show underlying differences in people without clinical heart disease and could explain the variability of the right ventricular response in people with cardiopulmonary disease."

The researchers found that the right ventricle is:
  • smaller but pumps harder in older adults.
  • larger in men than women.
  • smaller in African-Americans and larger in Hispanics, compared with Caucasians.
In most studies on the heart, researchers have focused on the more-easily-imaged left ventricle, the region of the heart affected by systemic high blood pressure and other common conditions. Some of the relationships between gender, age and race/ethnicity found in the new study are different from what's known about the left ventricle. For example, the left ventricle increases in mass with age and is larger in African-Americans than Caucasians.

"It's not surprising that the relationships are different, since the right and left ventricles differ in their development in the embryo, their shape, and the area of the body they serve," said Kawut, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology and director of the pulmonary vascular disease program at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

The researchers examined magnetic resonance images of the right ventricles of 4,204 men and women, average age 61.5, participating in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). MESA is a multicenter research project tracking the development of cardiovascular disease in 6,814 Caucasians, African-Americans, Hispanics and Chinese-Americans who did not have clinically-diagnosed heart disease at the beginning of the study.

Using norms derived from the study, 7.3 percent of the participants would be considered to have right ventricular hypertrophy and 5.9 percent to have dysfunction of the right ventricle.

If validated in future research, the norms can help physicians identify patients with abnormal right ventricle structure or function.

"If right ventricle abnormalities are found, it should heighten suspicion for underlying cardiopulmonary disease," Kawut said.

When the right ventricle loses its pumping ability, blood can back up into other areas of the body, producing congestion (right-sided heart failure). The new findings may help test effectiveness of treatments that could be developed for right ventricle dysfunction.

"This study is a first step, but we need to see how the right ventricle changes over five to 10 years in these 'normal' people, many of whom have COPD, sleep apnea and other common lung problems," Kawut said.
-end-
Co-authors are: João A.C. Lima, M.D.; R. Graham Barr, M.D., Dr.PH.; Harjit Chahal, M.D., M.P.H.; Aditya Jain, M.D., M.P.H.; Harikrishna Tandri, M.D., Ph.D.; Amy Praestgaard, M.S.; Emilia Bagiella, Ph.D.; Jorge R. Kizer, M.D., M.Sc.; W. Craig Johnson, M.S.; Richard A. Kronmal, Ph.D. and David A. Bluemke, M.D., Ph.D. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute funded the study.

Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association's policy or position. The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations are available at www.americanheart.org/corporatefunding.

Additional resources: Downloadable stock footage, animation and our image gallery are located at www.heart.org/news under Multimedia.

American Heart Association

Related Sleep Apnea Articles:

More cancer cases among women with sleep apnea
Women with severe sleep apnea appear to be at an elevated risk of getting cancer, a study shows.
New evidence on the association of shortened sleep time and obstructive sleep apnea with sleepiness and cardiometabolic risk factors
A new study in the journal CHEST® may change the way we think about sleep disorders.
Synthetic cannabis-like drug reduces sleep apnea
A synthetic cannabis-like drug in a pill reduced apnea and daytime sleepiness in the first large multi-site study of a drug for apnea.
Inflammation may precede sleep apnea, could be treatment target
Inflammation is traditionally thought of as a symptom of sleep apnea, but it might actually precede the disorder, potentially opening the door for new ways to treat and predict sleep apnea, according to researchers.
Concerns that sleep apnea could impact healthspan
The number of people with obstructive sleep apnea has steadily increased over the past two decades.
More Sleep Apnea News and Sleep Apnea Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...