The new research from The George Institute for Global Health at the University of Oxford has discovered women with bigger waists relative to their hips face a proportionately greater risk of experiencing a heart attack than men who have a similar ‘apple shape’.
The study, of nearly 500,000 people who provided data to the UK Biobank, proposes that in both sexes, the waist-to-hip ratio is a better predictor of heart attacks than general obesity, as gauged by weight relative to body size using the body mass index (BMI). However, the research suggests women with an ‘apple shape’ are particularly at peril.
Dr. Sanne Peters, Research Fellow in Epidemiology at The George Institute, Oxford, said, “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.”
“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.”
Being overweight or obese is a major and increasingly common perilous factor for chronic diseases, including heart attack, diabetes, and stroke, which are salient causes of death and ill health worldwide.
World Health Organisation guidelines propose that men with waists bigger than 102cm and women with waists bigger than 88cm face a substantially increased risk of metabolic conditions, which include diabetes.
The study examined that a high BMI was linked to the peril of heart disease in both sexes. However, bigger waists and higher waist-to-hip and waist-to-height ratios in women were 10-20% more strongly linked to the risk of heart attack than a high BMI.
Waist-to-hip ratio was an 18% stronger predictor of heart attack than BMI in women and a 6% stronger predictor of heart attack in men, which proposes that having more fat around the abdomen, in particular, has a bigger impact in women, possibly for genetic or biological reasons.
Peters said, “We need further research to try to disentangle the different ways women and men store body fat and understand how and why this is linked to different health risks.”