Medical experts have known for years that being overweight is linked to an array of health issues, but a new study has found the risk of a heart attack is greatly increased for women with apple-shaped bodies.
Nearly 500,000 people provided information and data to the UK Biobank for the study, with results suggesting that for both sexes, the waist-to-hip ratio was a more accurate indicator of a heart attack risk than obesity in general. Overall, it was women with the classic apple figure who were more likely to suffer a heart attack or other complications.
Women with apple-shaped bodies typically carry most of their excess weight around their middle.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association by the George Institute for Global Health.
Dr Sanne Peters, lead author and Research Fellow in Epidemiology at The George Institute in Oxford, said that researchers were now looking at fat tissue around the body and the impact that could have on heart health.
“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,” he said in a statement. “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.”
The new findings claim measuring a person’s waist-to-hip ratio is 18 per cent more effective than BMI (body mass index) when it comes to predicting the possibility of a heart attack.
At present, obesity increases the risk factors associated with an array of chronic health problems and diseases including heart attacks, diabetes and strokes. Incidentally, these are among the leading causes of death around the world. Current guidelines by the World Health Organisation say women with waists larger than 88cm increase their risk of diabetes and metabolic conditions. For men, the risk increases when waists are more than 102cm.
Peters added that while the new study is promising when it comes to tackling this health issue, more research is needed. “We need further research to try and disentangle the different ways women and men store body fat and understand how, and why, this is linked to different health risks.”