Predicting heart disease: It's in the belly

The study examined 200 patients with diabetes and found that those with bigger waists were at a greater risk of developing left ventricle dysfunction.
The study examined 200 patients with diabetes and found that those with bigger waists were at a greater risk of developing left ventricle dysfunction.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

New study finds waist circumference a better indicator of heart disease than weight, BMI

MIAMI • A study involving people with diabetes has shown that belly size is a stronger predictor of a dangerous kind of heart disease than body mass index, researchers said yesterday.

The study released at the American College of Cardiology conference in Chicago was based on 200 people with diabetes who had not shown any symptoms of heart disease.

Researchers found that those with larger waist circumferences were more likely than smaller-bellied people to have problems with the heart's left ventricle, which pumps oxygen-rich blood to the brain and the rest of the body.

"We specifically found that waist circumference appears to be a stronger predictor for left ventricle dysfunction than total body weight or body mass index," said principal investigator Boaz Rosen, a doctor at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.

Previous research has shown that the higher a person's body mass index (BMI) - a measure of a person's height and weight - the greater their risk of heart disease.

WAIST MATTERS

This study confirms that having an apple-shaped body, or a high waist circumference, can lead to heart disease, and that reducing your waist size can reduce your risks.

DR BRENT MUHLESTEIN, co-director of research at the Intermountain Medical Centre Heart Institute in Salt Lake City.

Having excess belly fat, or having an apple-shaped figure, has already been linked to high blood pressure, high sugar levels, elevated cholesterol, coronary artery disease and heart failure.

"This study confirms that having an apple-shaped body, or a high waist circumference, can lead to heart disease, and that reducing your waist size can reduce your risks," said Dr Brent Muhlestein, co-director of research at the Intermountain Medical Centre Heart Institute in Salt Lake City.

Problems with the left ventricle can lead to congestive heart failure.

While all overweight people can benefit from lifestyle interventions like diet and exercise, people with excess belly fat may need treatments that aggressively manage their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels to remain healthy, Dr Muhlestein told Medical Daily.

Researchers said more study is needed to see if diabetic patients with large waists and signs of heart problems go on to develop heart failure or artery disease.

"We were actually somewhat surprised to see that heart muscle function was found to be related to waist circumference," Dr Muhlestein said.

"At present, we don't have any idea why intra-abdominal fat, more so than fat from anywhere else, can affect heart function in the absence of prior myocardial infarction."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 03, 2016, with the headline 'Predicting heart disease: It's in the belly'. Print Edition | Subscribe