Abdominal obesity is a strong independent risk factor for heart disease, and using the waist-hip ratio rather than waist measurement alone is a better predictor of heart disease risk, according to a study published Monday in Circulation, the journal of American Heart Association.
"The size of the hips seems to predict a protective effect," said Dexter Canoy, lead author of the study and a research fellow at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. "In other words, a big waist with comparably big hips does not appear to be as worrisome as a big waist with small hips."
The research was based on 24,508 men and women aged 45 to 79 in the United Kingdom who participated in a European health study. Researchers measured participants' weight, height, waist circumference, hip circumference and other heart disease risk factors from 1993 to 1997. They then followed up with the participants for an average 9.1 years.
During the follow-up, 1,708 men and 892 women developed coronary heart disease. When they divided the men and women into five groups, according to waist-to-hip ratio, researchers found that those with the highest waist-hip ratio had the highest heart disease risk.
Men in the top one-fifth of the distribution (those with the biggest waists in relation to their hips) had a 55 percent higher risk of developing coronary heart disease compared to men in the bottom one-fifth of the distribution (those with the smallest waists in relation to their hips).
Women in the top one-fifth were 91 percent more likely to develop heart disease than women with the smallest waists in relation to their hips.
Waist-only measurements underestimated heart disease risk by 10 percent to 18 percent when compared to risk estimates for waist measurements when hip is considered (waist-to-hip ratio), according to the study results.
The study's results are definitive for predicting risk in relatively healthy men and women in the general population, Canoy said. More research is needed on whether abdominal fat distribution is an independent risk factor for heart disease among people who have chronic and other diseases at baseline.
(Xinhua News Agency December 12, 2007)