Extra Inches May Be More Important Than Extra Pounds When It Comes to Heart Failure Risk – Body Health World


Judging by the exploding popularity of athleisure clothes, many of us have decided to deal with the extra pandemic pounds around the midsection with the miracle of elastic. Unfortunately, those extra inches taxing your waistband may also be hurting your heart. A new study by Oxford University researchers has found that every extra inch of belly fat increases the relative risk of heart failure by 11 percent, making waist circumference a greater threat to heart health than overall weight. The research was presented at the 2022 European Society of Cardiology Congress, held August 26–29 in Barcelona, Spain.

The fact that belly fat or weight around the middle was found to be associated with a greater risk of heart failure isn’t too surprising, but it’s a risk factor that more people should be aware of, says Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, MD, a cardiologist and researcher at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who was not involved in this study. Obesity is a known risk factor for heart failure, but we need to drill down further, he says. “The type of fat can make a big difference in a person’s risk for cardiac events and heart failure,” says Dr. Lopez-Jimenez.

Why Belly Fat Matters When It Comes to Heart Health

Overweight and obesity in the United States has continued to creep up in the past few decades, and so has waist circumference. The average waist measurement for women is 38.7, up from 36.3 in 1999–2000, and men’s midsections are an average of 40.5 inches, up from 39 inches in 1999–2000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Where we carry our fat affects our heart and overall health, says Lopez-Jimenez. “Deeper belly fat, which is the visceral fat that accumulates around abdominal organs such as the pancreas, liver, and the small and large intestines, is fundamentally different from the fat that’s under the skin,” he says. This type of fat has been more associated with inflammation, another factor that affects the heart, arteries, and other areas, says Lopez-Jimenez.


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