Junior showcases heart failure research at Seattle conference

Lizzy Thomas ’14 presented the results of her medical research at the Heart Failure Society of America Conference in Seattle.

Thomas researched the correlation between obesity, muscle mass and heart disease this summer during an internship with Dr. Tamara Horwich, an assistant professor in residence in the Medical Cardiology department at UCLA.

In the Seattle Convention Center on Sept. 11, Thomas and her mentor explained their research and answered the questions of cardiologists and medical researchers.

“I had such a good time,” Thomas said. “It was really fun to do the presentation and have the poster. That was really cool for me. Also, poster sessions are a really good way to make connections because you can meet people that you can collaborate with on journal articles in the future.”

Thomas’s research investigated the “Obesity Paradox,” a phenomenon that describes the tendency of overweight people with heart failure to live longer than thinner patients with heart failure.

“Our goal was to determine whether the ‘Obesity Paradox’ existed because the heart failure patients had increased fat mass or increased muscle mass,” Thomas said.

Thomas conducted her research using an “InBody,” a body composition analyzer, which measures weight, body fat, muscle mass, and total body water volume.

“The InBody does a cool thing,” Thomas said. “It puts all of the data entries into an Excel file. So, we took those measurements and correlated them to prognostic surrogates, measurements to tell you how healthy a person is, such as blood pressure, heart rate, heart volume, heart size and waist circumference.”

Thomas compiled the bank of medical data and analyzed the results that she presented at the conference.

“We got a result that we weren’t expecting,” Thomas said. “It turns out that the people who fared the best with heart disease were people with higher fat mass as well as higher lean muscle mass.”

Thomas and her mentor are still in the process of  building the database of their findings and intend to publish their research in a scientific paper in the spring.

“In the long term we want to look at how people’s body compositions affect their long term survival with heart failure,” Thomas said.

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