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Carrying fat around midriff could lead to sudden cardiac death

Posted:  Monday, December 22, 2014

In many traditions, being heavy around the midriff is considered a sign of prosperity. However, in the wake of increasing lifestyle diseases, midriff fat is not a proud possession anymore. Recently, American scientists have given yet another reason to lose that bulge. A new study has found that people having larger waists and hips are twice as likely to have sudden cardiac death (SCD) as those with normal measurements.

Published in the British Medical Journal, the study evaluated almost 15,000 middle aged men and women (45-64 years of age), all of whom were taking part in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. The ARIC study has been monitoring the causes of narrowed arteries in middle- aged Americans since 1987.

All the study participants underwent a detailed health assessment that included measurements of weight, height, waist circumference, and waist to hip ratio at 5 time points: in 1987-9, 1990-2, 1993-5, 1996-8, and 2011-3. A total of 253 SCD cases occurred during the monitoring period averaging 12.5 years. Those affected were in their mid-fifties.

All the SCD cases displayed known risk factors for cardiovascular disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a higher BMI (body mass index). They also had a larger waist circumference and a larger waist to hip ratio (an indicator of central obesity) than those who did not sustain a SCD.

The risk of SCD was associated with general obesity, however this association was observed only in non-smokers. Further, among the parameters of general obesity, waist to hip ratio was most strongly associated with SCD risk even after accounting for other influential factors. The researchers noted that those with the highest waist to hip ratio had double the risk of SCD in comparison to those with normal ratios. Quite the contrary to BMI and waist circumference, this association was independent of existing coronary heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure and other known risk factors.

Central obesity is considered more critical than fat stored elsewhere because it appears to modulate inflammation. Although observational in nature, this study backs past research that suggested losing belly fat to reduce the risk of numerous diseases.

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