Apple shaped women twice as likely to suffer heart attack

– Storing fat around the stomach significantly raises the risk of heart disease

– Fat is packed around major organs and releases harmful chemicals into blood

– Study tracked 2683 women who were healthy weight over 18-year period

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Women with apple-shaped figures are twice as likely to suffer heart attacks and strokes as pear-shaped women, a major study reveals.

Storing fat around the stomach significantly raises the risk of heart disease, even in women who are a healthy weight, scientists say.


This is because fat is packed around major organs such as the liver and pancreas, and releases harmful chemicals into the blood that can cause heart disease.

The study, published in the European Heart Journal, tracked 2683 postmenopausal women who were a healthy weight over an 18 year period.

Scientists from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York analysed their body fat distribution.

They ranked the women in order of whether they were apple-shaped or pear-shaped – when most fat is stored around the legs or hips.

The top 25 per cent most apple-shaped women were twice as likely to suffer heart disease and stroke as the 25 per cent of women with the least fat around their middle.

And the top quarter of pear-shaped women were 40 per cent less likely to get heart disease than people who store little fat in their legs.

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Overall, the women with the very highest proportion of fat around their middle were three times more likely to get cardiovascular disease than women at the opposite extreme with the most leg fat.

Scientists said having a higher proportion of fat on the legs can protect people from heart disease as it means the fat cannot cause problems elsewhere in the body.

Lead author Dr Qibin Qi said:

‘Our findings suggest that postmenopausal women, despite having normal weight, could have varying risk of cardiovascular disease because of different fat distributions around either their middle or their legs.’

Fat in the abdomen is called visceral fat and releases chemicals that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. This type of fat also pumps out fatty acids into the blood and has been linked to high cholesterol and insulin resistance, a cause of diabetes In contrast, extra weight on your hips and thighs is known as subcutaneous fat, which means it sits under the skin and is simply a store of fat.

When women reach the menopause, changes in their body shape and metabolism can cause more to be stored around the organs in the body rather than underneath the skin.

Scientists said that the distribution of fat in somebody’s body is more important predictor of heart problems than measuring their weight. They urged doctors to measure people’s waist circumference to assess their risk of heart disease, rather than just calculating their BMI.

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Dr Qi said:

‘In routine clinical practice, BMI is a common approach to assessing a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease.

‘As such, some people who are categorised as being a normal weight may not be recognised as being at increased risk of cardiovascular disease due to the distribution of their body fat, and so may not have preventive measures recommended for them.’ The World Health Organisation suggests men with waists bigger than 40in (102cm) and women with waists bigger than 35in (88cm) face a substantially increased risk of conditions such as diabetes.


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