Waist size better predicts heart attack

Research suggests that differences in the way women and men store fat may affect their risk of heart disease, with those with an 'apple shape' at greatest risk.

Apple-shaped women are at a greater risk of heart attack than those with a pear shape and should be more closely monitored by doctors for signs of heart disease, a study suggests.

A UK study of 500,000 men and women aged 40 to 69 found those with bigger waists relative to their hips - commonly known as an 'apple shape' - were more likely to have a heart attack.

The risk was greatest among women who carried too much fat around their waist, said lead researcher Dr Sanne Peters, Research Fellow in Epidemiology at The George Institute, Oxford.

With approximately 40 per cent of all heart attacks in women fatal, it's hoped the findings will lead to improved screening of those at risk.

"We should think about more intense screening of women with an apple shape," Dr Peters said.

Researchers at the George Institute for Global Health looked at data from the UK Biobank to study the impact of fat distribution on the heart.

While a high body mass index (BMI) - a general measure of obesity - was linked to the risk of heart disease in both sexes, the risk was 10 to 20 per cent even greater among those with bigger waists and higher waist-to-hip and waist-to-height ratios.

"Our findings suggest that differences in the way women and men store fat may affect their risk of heart disease," said Dr Peters.

Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the study also showed waist-to-hip ratio to be a better heart attack predictor than general obesity - 18 per cent stronger than BMI in women and six per cent in men.

Because of this the researchers believe waist size as opposed to general obesity, as measured by BMI - which compares weight to height - should be considered as a better predictor of heart attack, especially in women.

"We found waist-to-hip ratio was a better predictor of heart disease compared to BMI in both women and men," said Dr Peters.

"But we also found waist-to-hip ratio was an even better predictor of heart disease in women than in men."

It's hoped understanding the role sex differences in body fat distribution play in future health problems could lead to sex-specific public-health interventions.

Published 1 March 2018 at 1:10pm
Source: AAP