Extra fat around the belly ‘biggest risk for heart disease’: Study
Every extra inch on the waistline increases the risk of heart failure by 11 per cent, research shows.
Scientists from Oxford University found that extra pounds around the belly are far more important than overall weight.
Analysis of health data on adults aged 40 to 70 showed weight circumference is the biggest risk factor over other obesity measures such as body mass index (BMI) which measures the mass and height of a person.
Over the 13-year study the risk of heart attacks and cardiac arrests increased by four per cent for every centimetre on the waistline.
Health experts say everyone should measure themselves annually to check if they are building up dangerous fat around their organs.
Lead researcher Dr Ayodipupo Oguntade said: “The amount of fat people carry around their trunk is more important in tracking body fatness and cardiovascular risk.
Two out of three adults are overweight
“We know that visceral adipose tissue – the fat around the organs in the abdomen – is very active and contains a lot of inflammatory factors that can cause cardiovascular disease.”
Two out of three adults in the UK are either overweight or obese while heart and circulatory diseases cause a quarter of all UK deaths, claiming almost 500 lives a day.
The research, being presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology in Barcelona, showed those with the biggest waistlines were 3.21 times more likely to suffer heart failure. And those with the worst waist to hip ratio measurement were 3.34 times more at risk than slimmer specimens.
By comparison, those in the highest quintile group for BMI had a 2.65 times greater heart failure risk than those in the lowest.
Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said: “Ideally you should have a piece of tape measuring half your height somewhere handy in the bathroom.
“If it fits snugly around your bare waist you’re in a ‘healthy’ weight range.
“If it doesn’t, seriously consider cutting down on the sugary snacks which probably caused your spare tyre and sensibly reduce your risk of any heart problem.”
The Oxford study also showed that every extra unit of BMI increased the chances of heart failure by nine per cent.
Heart failure is a long-term condition where the organ is unable to pump blood around the body properly.
Symptoms include breathlessness after activity or at rest, feeling tired most of the time, feeling light-headed or fainting and having swollen ankles and legs.
The correct point to measure the waistline is around the trunk about an inch above the belly button.
In Japan employers and local government must measure and record the waistlines annually of everyone aged 40 to 74.
There is a state-prescribed limit for male waistlines of 33.5 inches.
Mr Fry added: “It’s that simple there’s a law in Japan that gets the population to do it annually.”
James Leiper, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “A larger waist measurement is often a sign that you have too much visceral fat, which sits around our internal organs and impairs the way our heart and blood vessels function.
'A chronic and incurable condition'
“Heart failure is a chronic and incurable condition that worsens over time, so these findings underline the importance of managing your weight now.
“People who carry more weight around their middle have an increased risk of higher cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
“These risk factors are all closely linked with heart and circulatory diseases, which can then increase the risk of heart failure.”
The two symptoms of heart failure most linked to being overweight or obese were diagnoses of hypertension or irregular heart beat.
In the 13-year study participants had an average age of 56 and 8,669 suffered first-time heart failure events. Many of these proved fatal.
The absolute risk in the study population was two per cent.
Dr Oguntade said his team’s analysis disproves the so-called “obesity paradox” theory from previous studies which suggested that for some people, such as the elderly, normal to low BMI may be detrimental.
He said it proved no level of extra “fatness” boosted health because any extra BMI points or inches on the waistline increased risk.
Source: The Telegraph