Women with ‘apple shape’ more prone to heart attacks
A new study at the University of Oxford that analysed data from 500,000 people suggests that in both sexes, the waist-to-hip ratio is a better predictor of heart attacks than general obesity, but women with an “apple shape” are particularly at risk.
The research, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, found that a high body mass index (BMI) was linked to the risk of heart disease in both sexes, but bigger waists and higher waist-to-hip and waist-to-height ratios in women were 10% to 20% more strongly linked to the risk of heart attack than a high BMI.
“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 measures of general obesity,” said Sanne Peters of the George Institute, Oxford, who led the study.
“Our findings also suggest that differences in the way women and men store fat may affect their risk of heart disease. Understanding the role sex differences in body fat distribution play in future health problems could lead to sex-specific public-health interventions that could address the global obesity epidemic more effectively.”
Waist-to-hip ratio was an 18% stronger predictor of heart attacks than BMI in women, and a 6% stronger predictor of heart attacks in men, which suggests that having more fat around the abdomen in particular has a bigger impact in women, possibly for genetic or biological reasons.
Research has established that being overweight or obese is a major, and increasingly common, risk factor for chronic diseases including heart attack, diabetes and stroke, which are leading causes of death and ill-health worldwide.
The World Health Organisation guidelines suggest that men with waists bigger than 102 cm and women with waists bigger than 88 cm face a substantially increased risk of metabolic conditions, which include diabetes.