Surprising find, body shape may be a better predictor of heart disease

Research shows waistline size may predict heart health better than BMI.

A new study involving diabetic patients has found that an increase in waist size cold be a better way of predicting heart disease than either actual body weight or body mass index (BMI), according to a report on UPI.

Researchers have known for some time that abdominal obesity has been associated with plaque buildup in the arteries, at least compared to other forms of obesity, and this new research seems to back that conclusion.  It suggests a pear-shaped body, with the weight around the hips, may be better for heart health than an apple-shaped body, with the weight centered around the belly at the front.

In this new study, researchers selected 200 men and women with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, and took measurements of their waist size, total body weight and BMI.  They used echocardiography, a kind of ultrasound, to evaluate the patients’ heart functions and found that, as waist size increased, the function of the left ventricle got progressively worse.  They noted the loss of function began to level off at a waistline of 45 inches.

The study’s authors also pointed out the link they found between the reduced heart function and the increase in waistline, was independent of total body weight and BMI.

Dr. Brent Muhlestein, a study author and co-director of research at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City said the relationship between the left ventricle and the waist size remained “highly significant” even after adjusting for body weight.

The left ventricle is the primary pumping chamber of the heart and loss of function there often leads to heart diseases, including congestive heart failure.

Muhlestein also said the study found the increase in waist sizes had a greater impact on men than women, noting women in general had better heart function at each increasing level of abdominal obesity.

The study authors recommend that women try to maintain a waist size of 34 inches or less and that men try to stay under 40 inches for better heart health.

Dr. Sarah Samaan, a cardiologist and physician partner at the Heart Hospital at Baylor in Plano, Texas, commenting on the new findings, said these results support previous research that found abdominal fat is more risky that other fat areas of the body.  She adds that aerobic exercise is the best way to burn off the belly fat, and since smokers tend to hold more belly fat than non-smokers, quitting smoking may also help.

The study authors were to present their findings at the annual meeting of the American College of Cardiology in Chicago.

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