TUESDAY, Dec. 11, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Abdominal fat is a strong independent risk factor for heart disease, say British researchers who also concluded that checking the waist-hip ratio is a better predictor of heart disease risk than waist measurement alone.
The study, published Dec. 11 in the journal Circulation, included 24,508 men and women, ages 45 to 79, who were followed for an average of 9.1 years. During that time, 1,708 men and 892 women developed coronary heart disease. Those with the highest waist-to-hip ratio had the highest risk.
"The size of the hips seems to predict a protective effect. In other words, a big waist with comparably big hips does not appear to be as worrisome as a big waist with small hips," lead author Dr. Dexter Canoy, a research fellow in epidemiology and public health at the University of Manchester, said in a prepared statement.
Among the findings:
- Men with the biggest waists in relation to their hips had a 55 percent higher risk of developing coronary heart disease than those with the smallest waists in relation to their hips.
- Women with the highest waist-to-hip ratio were 91 percent more likely to develop heart disease than women with the smallest waists in relation to their hips.
- Compared to waist-to-hip ratio, waist-only measurements underestimated heart disease risk by 10 percent.
- When waist-only, body mass index (BMI) and coronary heart disease risk factors were considered, there was a 20 percent lower risk of heart disease for every 6.4 centimeter increase in hip circumference in men and for every 9.2 centimeter hip circumference increase in women.
"People whose abdominal fat puts them at higher risk for heart disease do not always appear overweight or obese," Canoy said. "However, the overriding message from this and other studies about heart disease risk is that, despite the different measures and risk estimates, the bottom line is that many of us need to lose excess weight. Doctors should start looking beyond weight, height, simple waist circumference and BMI to assess heart disease. A simple waist-hip ratio measurement is a strong predictor of heart disease."
The American Heart Association offers advice on how to keep your heart healthy.