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Women's waistlines mirror their heart disease risk

A small waist may not only guarantee those approving looks from men, but may also protect you from the risk of heart disease.

india Updated: Jan 21, 2006 12:42 IST

A small waist may not only guarantee those approving looks from men and envious glares from women, but may also protect you from the risk of heart disease.

Women with waistlines of 35 inches or more are at greater risk of heart disease than thinner women, according to a new study by researchers at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia and Sister to Sister: Everyone Has a Heart Foundation.

Of more than 6,000 women without known heart disease whose waistlines were measured on Women's Heart Day, February 18, 2005, the study found that 90 percent had at least one major risk factor for heart disease, and one-third had three or more. These risk factors included high cholesterol and high blood pressure, among others. Increased waist circumference was also correlated with a woman's 10-year chance of having a heart attack or dying of heart disease.

"Measuring waist circumference may be a simple method that women can identify themselves as being at increased heart-attack risk and empower them to seek further evaluation and possible treatment from their doctors," says lead author Dr. Lori Mosca, director of preventive cardiology at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and professor of medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

A substantial proportion of women screened were found to have major risk factors for heart disease they were unaware of. Nearly half of all women with elevated cholesterol or low HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol) did not report a history of being told they had abnormal cholesterol from a health-care provider.

Alarmingly, 43 percent of women who participated in the screening had blood glucose above what is considered normal (< 100 mg/dL). And, 16 percent of women with no documented history of hypertension had elevated blood pressure (> 140/90 mmHg) that should receive intervention based on national standards.

"We now know that these screenings provide an additional and unforeseen benefit. Not only have they allowed us to identify and educate women at risk, but they have provided a rich opportunity for research that will be useful in educating the millions of women who may not be able to attend the screenings in person but are at risk of heart disease," she added.

First Published: Jan 21, 2006 12:42 IST