Extra-Large Waistlines Carry a Greater Chance of Having a Heart Attack; ‘Fat Is Not Created Equal’.
A new study offers fresh evidence that belly fat is the chief culprit in the link between obesity and cardiovascular disease.
The report also raises the possibility that people can be overweight without significantly raising their heart risk, so long as they carry the extra fat in places other than their belly. In fact, a few extra pounds may even lower the risk of death from heart disease, researchers found.
Previous medical studies have also pointed to a possible protective effect of being overweight—a phenomenon that has been called the “obesity paradox.” Such findings have caused some doctors and patients to wonder whether being obese or overweight is that big a deal in managing heart risk.
But the new study suggests the issue isn’t about the dangers of obesity, but rather the limitations of the tool called body mass index, or BMI, that is typically used to measure it.
The new report says obesity is clearly an important factor in heart risk. “Fat does matter,” says Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, a cardiologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., and senior author of the study. “But it depends on how you measure [it]. It’s mostly about fat distribution and not total fatness.” The report was published online Monday by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
In the study, which pooled data from nearly 16,000 patients with heart disease, the researchers found that the bigger your waistline, the higher your chances of dying in the months and years after a heart attack or major heart procedure.
The heightened risk remained even for people considered normal weight according to the BMI measurement tool.
But patients with bulging waistlines, as measured by either waist circumference or waist-to-hip ratio, had a higher risk of death. They were 1.7 times as likely to die during the follow-up period as those with normal waist measurements, the researchers said.
Waist measurements of 40 inches or more for men and 35 inches or more for women are considered in the danger zone as are waist-hip ratios (waist measurement divided by hip measurement) of greater than 0.9 for men and 0.85 for women.