Women with bigger waist and hips have higher heart attack risk

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Heart attacks were more common in people who were obese, with the risk increasing along with increases in body mass index (BMI), a ratio of height to weight.
Heart attacks were more common in people who were obese, with the risk increasing along with increases in body mass index (BMI), a ratio of height to weight. (iStock)
While obesity is associated with an increased risk for heart attacks, a new study suggests that hip and waist size may play a bigger role, particularly for women.
Researchers examined data on 479,610 adults in England, Scotland and Wales. At the start, participants ranged in age from 40 to 69, with an average age of 56. They were typically overweight but they didn’t have a history of heart disease.
Heart attacks were more common in people who were obese, with the risk increasing along with increases in body mass index (BMI), a ratio of height to weight.
But the increased risk was even higher for people who had an unusually large waist circumference or a high waist-to-hip ratio, meaning their hips aren’t much wider than their waist – and the effect was particularly strong in women.
“We found that women with bigger waists and waist-to-hip ratios face a greater excess risk of experiencing a heart attack than men who have a similar ‘apple’ shape,” said lead study author Sanne Peters of the George Institute for Global Health and the University of Oxford in the U.K.
“Our findings show that looking at how fat tissue is distributed in the body – especially in women – can give us more insight into the risk of heart attack than general measures of obesity such as BMI,” Peters said by email.
Globally, 1.9 billion adults are overweight or obese, according to the World Health Organization. Obesity increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, joint disorders and certain cancers.
A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered a healthy weight, 25 to 29.9 is overweight, 30 or above is obese and 40 or higher is what’s known as morbidly obese.
A maximum healthy waist-to-hip ratio is 0.9 for men and 0.85 for women, according to the WHO. A ratio of 1 or higher, which means the waist is bigger than the hips, can increase the risk of heart disease and health problems linked to obesity.
“Visceral fat is more active and can increase inflammation which causes diabetes, and coronary artery disease,” Cho, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.

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