'Apple-shaped' people have no extra risk of heart problems

Tuesday, March 22, 2011; 10:15 AM

THE QUESTION "Apple-shaped" people - those who carry excess fat in their midsection - are often warned that they're likely to develop health problems. Are they, in fact, at greater risk for a heart attack or stroke than people whose fat is more evenly distributed on the body?

THIS STUDY analyzed data on 221,934 people who averaged 58 years old and had no history of cardiovascular disease. In about a 10-year period, 14,297 of them had a heart attack or stroke. As measurements of fat increased, so did people's heart risks. However, people with central obesity (measured by waist circumference or waist-to-hip ratio) were no more likely to have had a heart attack or stroke than were those with general obesity (measured by body mass index, which calculates body fatness based on weight and height).

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? People who are overweight or obese, meaning they have too much body fat. Excess weight and fat can lead to high blood pressure and coronary artery disease, among other health problems.

CAVEATS The findings do not negate the effect that excess fat can have on the development of cardiovascular disease.

FIND THIS STUDY March 11 online issue of the Lancet.

LEARN MORE ABOUT obesity at www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health. Learn about heart disease at www.mayoclinic.com/health-information.

- Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.

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