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Thigh Size Can Have Impact on Risk of Heart Disease

Too little muscle mass may explain why small thighs are associated with higher risk

FRIDAY, Sept. 4 (HealthDay News) -- A thigh circumference below 60 centimeters is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease and premature mortality in both men and women, according to a study published online Sept. 3 in BMJ.

Berit L. Heitmann, Ph.D., of Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark, and Peder Frederiksen, of Glostrup University Hospital, also in Denmark, conducted a study of 1,436 men and 1,380 women. Measurements of the subjects' height and weight, along with thigh, hip and waist circumference were taken in 1987 to 1988 and the cohort was followed up for 10-year incidence of cardiovascular and coronary heart disease and 12.5 years for total death.

Subjects with a thigh circumference of approximately below 60 centimeters had increased risk of premature death, but there was no benefit to either men or women of having thighs larger than this, the investigators found. The association held even after abdominal obesity, general obesity, and cardiovascular and lifestyle risk factors were taken into account.

"The risk was more highly related to thigh circumference than to waist circumference. In this regard, it is important to note that modifiable risk factors for abdominal obesity, or behaviors to selectively reduce waist circumference, are generally unknown," the authors write. "Thigh muscle mass, on the other hand, can be selectively increased by lower body physical activity, and a clear public health recommendation to change this risk factor can be easily communicated."

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