Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

Fat Around Heart May Be Linked to Clogged Arteries

Study Shows Fat Stored Around the Heart May Be a Predictor of Heart Disease
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

Aug. 16, 2011 -- Fat packed around the heart may predict narrowed arteries, even in people who have don't have symptoms of heart disease, a new study shows.

Studies suggest that where people tend to store their extra calories as fat may be at least as big a threat to health as how much total fat they have.

There's mounting evidence that people who are genetically programmed to store fat in the area around the heart and under the breastbone in the chest, where it sits in close proximity to the heart, may face a higher risk of heart disease compared to people who store fat in other areas.

The new study, which is published in the journal Radiology, used specialized imaging techniques to measure fat that surrounds the heart in 183 men and women.

The scans were also able to see the beginnings of plaques, or blockages, in the coronary arteries, the vessels that carry blood to the heart muscle.

Researchers found that the amount of fat stored around the heart and in the chest was a stronger predictor of the heart's health than overall size or the amount of belly fat a person had.

"If you look at the fat around their hearts, it is better at predicting the disease than the fat in the stomach or other areas that we traditionally look at," says study researcher David A. Bluemke, MD, PhD, director of radiology at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Fatty tissue releases inflammatory chemicals that may speed the development of atherosclerosis, says study researcher Jingzhong Ding, PhD, an associate professor of internal medicine and geriatrics at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, in Winston-Salem, N.C.

"We think that the fat, because it releases lots of these different kinds of chemicals, has a detrimental effect on surrounding organs and tissues," Ding tells WebMD.

Chest Fat and Heart Health

For the study, which was funded by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, researchers recruited middle-aged adults who had never been diagnosed with heart disease.

The average age of people in the study was 61. Their average body mass index (BMI), a measure of weight and height, was about 28. The average waist size was 39 inches for men and 35 inches for women.

Today on WebMD

x-ray of human heart
A visual guide.
atrial fibrillation
Symptoms and causes.
heart rate graph
10 things to never do.
heart rate
Get the facts.
empty football helmet
red wine
eating blueberries
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Inside A Heart Attack
Omega 3 Sources
Salt Shockers
lowering blood pressure