The location of body fat is more important than body mass index (BMI) in assessing someone’s risk of heart disease, a study suggests.
The study of nearly 700 post-menopausal women revealed that fat deposited around the waist carries a greater risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) than an overall high BMI.
Obesity, defined as a BMI greater than 30, has long been known as a risk factor for CAD and is often accompanied by other cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes.
However, BMI does not take into account where body fat is stored.
The study of nearly 700 Korean women showed that the risk of CAD was significantly higher in women whose waists measured at least 85cm (33.5 inches) than those who had a BMI of over 25, the Mirror reports.
“Not all fat is the same, and central obesity is particularly dangerous because it is associated with risk for heart disease, the number one killer of women,” said Dr Stephanie Faubion, medical director at The North American Menopause Society.
The results are especially relevant for postmenopausal women who tend to have an increased abdominal fat disposition.
This is because oestrogen protects women’s cardiovascular systems before menopause, but women’s oestrogen levels decline during and after menopause, increasing the risk of CAD.
“Identifying women with excess abdominal fat, even with a normal BMI, is important so that lifestyle interventions can be implemented,” said Faubion.