A recent research has revealed that people who have a large waist-hip ratio are more prone to heart disease.
It was found that abdominal obesity is a powerful independent risk factor for heart-disease and using the waist-hip ratio rather than waist measurement alone is a better predictor of heart disease risk among men and women.
The study was led by Dexter Canoy, M.Phil., M.D., Ph.D., a research fellow in epidemiology and public health at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom.
The researchers also examined if the association between fat distribution and heart disease risk was independent of body mass index (BMI), which evaluates body weight relative to height, as well as other heart disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
"The size of the hips seems to predict a protective effect," said Dr. Canoy
He added: "In other words, a big waist with comparably big hips does not appear to be as worrisome as a big waist with small hips."
The results came from the research carried out on 24,508 men and women ages 45 to 79 in the United Kingdom who participated in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer cohort study (EPIC-Norfolk) which is based at the University of Cambridge in the UK.
Participants' weight, height, waist circumference, hip circumference and other heart disease risk factors from 1993 to 1997 were measured by the researchers. They then followed up with participants for an average 9.1 years.
Through the follow-up, 1,708 men and 892 women developed coronary heart disease. After the men and women were divided into five groups, according to waist-hip ratio, it was discovered that those with the highest waist-to-hip ratio had the highest heart disease risk.
The results showed that men in the top one-fifth of the distribution (having the biggest waists in relation to their hips) had a 55-pct higher risk of developing coronary heart disease compared to men in the bottom one-fifth of the distribution (those with the smallest waists in relation to their hips).
Women in the top one-fifth, or the highest waist-to-hip ratio group, were 91 pct more prone to develop heart disease than women with the smallest waists in relation to their hips.
Waist-only measurements underestimated heart disease risk by 10 pct to 18 pct when compared to risk estimates for waist measurements when hip is considered (waist-to-hip ratio).
When waist-only, body mass index and coronary heart disease risk factors are considered, for every 6.4 cm increase in hip circumference in men and for every 9.2 cm hip circumference increase in women, there is a 20 pct lower risk for developing heart disease.
Canoy said that the study's results are definitive for predicting risk in relatively healthy men and women in the general population.
"People whose abdominal fat puts them at higher risk for heart disease do not always appear overweight or obese," said Canoy.
He added: "However, the overriding message from this and other studies about heart disease risk is that, despite the different measures and risk estimates, the bottom line is that many of us need to lose excess weight. Doctors should start looking beyond weight, height, simple waist circumference and BMI to assess heart disease. A simple waist-hip ratio measurement is a strong predictor of heart disease."
The study was published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.