WebMD Health News
Louise Chang, MD
Aug. 13, 2007 -- The tape measure may beat the scale as a low-tech indicator
of atherosclerosis, new research shows.
Atherosclerosis means the hardening of the arteries, which makes heart
attacks and stroke more likely.
Doctors have sophisticated tools to search for signs of atherosclerosis. But
a tape measure may give you a rough idea of your risk -- and if you've got a
pot belly, watch out.
So say James de Lemos, MD, FACC, and colleagues at the University of Texas
Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
"We think the key message for people is to prevent accumulation of
central fat early on in their lives," de Lemos says in a news release.
"To do so, they will need to develop lifelong dietary and exercise habits
that prevent the development of the 'pot belly.'"
The new study included 2,744 Dallas residents who were in their mid-40s, on
average (age range: 30-65).
Participants got noninvasive scans to check for evidence of atherosclerosis,
which can start years before a heart attack or stroke. They also got their
height, weight, waist circumference, and hip circumference measured.
Based on those measurements, de Lemos and colleagues calculated
participants' BMI (which relates height to weight) and waist-to-hip ratio
(waist circumference divided by hip circumference).
BMI (body mass index) is often used to gauge obesity. But BMI can be
BMI can't tell muscle from flab. It also doesn't show where body fat is
located. Carrying extra fat around your waist may be unhealthier than having
extra fat around your hips.
Because of BMI's drawbacks, some experts prefer the waist-to-hip ratio to
In the Dallas study, waist-to-hip ratio trumped BMI as a marker of
That is, participants' waist-to-hip ratio was more sensitive than BMI at
indicating who had scans showing evidence of atherosclerosis.
Abdominal fat may play an active role in promoting heart disease, warn de
Lemos and colleagues.
Their study, published in next week's edition of the Journal of the
American College of Cardiology, didn't directly test that theory.
Looking to lose a pot belly? Your doctor can give you pointers on doing so
safely -- and on maintaining your progress.
SOURCE: See, R. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, Aug.
21, 2007; vol 50: pp 752-759.
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