FRIDAY, Nov. 4, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Checking a person's hip-to-waist ratio, not their body mass index (BMI), is the best obesity measure for assessing heart attack risk, according to an international study in this week's issue of The Lancet medical journal.
Canadian researchers studied more than 27,000 people in 52 countries and concluded that using waist-to-hip ratio instead of BMI to measure obesity increases by three-fold the number of people considered to have a risk of heart attack.
The researchers looked at BMI, waist-to-hip ratio, and hip measure in the study participants. Half of them had previously had a heart attack and the other half were age and gender-matched controls who had not had heart attacks.
BMI, a ratio of weight to height, was only slightly higher in the heart attack patients, compared to those in the control group. However, heart attack patients had significantly higher waist-to-hip ratios than the controls, irrespective of other cardiovascular risk factors. This finding was consistent in women and men, in all age groups, and in all regions of the world.
The study authors concluded that compared with BMI, waist-to-hip ratio is three times more effective in predicting heart attack risk.
Larger waist size (indicating amount of abdominal fat) was harmful, while larger hip size (a possible indication of lower body muscle) was protective, the researchers noted.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about heart attack symptoms and prevention.