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Belly Fat in Heart Patients Raises Death Risk

Study Points Out Dangers of Having Fat Around the Waist

Thicker Waistlines and Heart Disease continued...

The average age of study participants was 66. There were more men than women included in the study, 59% and 41%, respectively.

All participants had been diagnosed with coronary artery disease, which was defined as a previous history of heart attack or a procedure to open blocked arteries, like angioplasty or heart bypass. The minimum follow-up was six months.

There were 6,648 people in the normal-weight group, which was composed of people with BMIs that ranged from 18.5 to 24.9.

There were 2,396 in the obese group, who had BMIs over 30.

Across the different studies, participants were followed from six months to 16 years, with the midpoint follow-up at 2.3 years; 5,696 people died.

After adjusting their data to control for the influence of other things known to influence death risk, like age, gender, smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart failure, researchers found that those with the highest waist-to-hip ratios were, on average, about 70% more likely to have died during follow-up than those with less belly fat. Those with a high waist circumference were about 30% more likely to have died during follow-up.

Researchers estimated that abdominal obesity was responsible for about one in three deaths in the study. Among normal-weight study participants, central obesity appeared to explain about one in five deaths in men and about half of deaths in women.

Researchers say they aren’t sure why having more belly fat appears to be worse for women than men, but they can make some guesses.

“Women tend to have wider hips than men, which we think is generally protective,” says Lopez-Jimenez, “so I think for a woman to have an abnormal waist-to-hip ratio is because the constitution is quite different than her peers,” he says.

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