Having a wide waist is actually worse for your heart than actually being overweight, reveals a recent study. The research was presented at EuroPrevent 2018, a congress of the European Society of Cardiology held on April 20 in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
The study, conducted by cardiologists at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, investigated how much abdominal obesity (belly fat in people with a normal weight, also known as central obesity) factors into the risk of heart disease, UPI reports.
According to the study, having excess weight around your abdominal area (colloquially known as “beer belly”) is more dangerous for your heart than having a high Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI measures the overall body fat based on people’s weight in relation to their height.
“People with a normal weight but a fat belly have more chance of heart problems than people without a fat belly, even if they are obese according to BMI,” said study author Dr. Jose Medina-Inojosa, of Mayo Clinic’s division of preventive cardiology.
It all has to do with fat distribution, Medina-Inojosa explains. In other words: location, location, location.
The waist is the first area where adipose tissue usually stores up, he says. This means that people with a high BMI — who classify as being overweight — but no beer belly “probably have more muscle, which is good for health,” Medina-Inojosa points out.
That is because muscle tissue acts “like a metabolic storehouse” that helps the body burn fat and decrease blood sugar levels, the study author said in a statement.
— ABC News (@ABC) April 21, 2018
His research, conducted in the span of 16 years, from 2000 to 2016, followed nearly 1,700 people and assessed their heart disease risk. The study participants — locals from Rochester, notes ABC News — were aged 45 and older at the time the research began.
The results were alarming for people who struggle to keep fat off their waistlines. The study revealed that having a beer belly comes with a 79 percent higher chance of major cardiac events than simply being mildly overweight.
The Mayo Clinic study documents that people with abdominal obesity are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack or a stroke, and even to die from heart problems, compared to people with a high BMI but no belly fat.
These results are consistent with a previous Mayo Clinic study that came out in 2014. That research compared the heart disease risk in people with normal BMI and abdominal obesity versus participants of normal weight and with no belly fat, LiveScience reported at the time.
The 2014 research showed that people in the “beer belly group” had a 2.75 times higher risk of dying from heart disease and a 2.08 times higher risk of death from any cause than people in the “flat tummy group.”
“If you have fat around your belly and it’s greater than the size of your hips, visit your doctor to assess your cardiovascular health and fat distribution,” Medina-Inojosa recommends.
“If you have central obesity, the target will be waist loss rather than weight loss,” he points out.