Waist size an important risk factor for heart failure

Heart failure GPs should measure waist size, not BMI alone.

Waist size and not just BMI is an important risk factor for heart failure in middle-aged and older men and women, a study has found.

Researchers from the US and Sweden collected data from 80,360 Swedish men and women aged between 43 and 83. Participants' height, weight and waist circumference were documented.

Over the next seven years there were 382 heart failure events among the women and 718 among the men.

BMI, waist circumference, waist-hip ratio and waist-height ratio were higher in those who suffered heart failure than in those who did not.

The researchers found that, in women, higher waist circumference was associated with heart failure at all levels of BMI, but BMI appeared to predict heart failure only among those with high waist circumference.

However, both BMI and waist circumference were predictors among men. They also noted that the associations between adiposity and heart failure events weakened with age.

Dr David Haslam, clinical director of the National Obesity Forum, told GP newspaper that waist circumference should be measured routinely in GP practices and added to medical guidelines.

'Evidence for a large waist size being a risk factor for heart failure is overwhelming. Measuring the waist would be very simple to do,' he said.

'Previous research strongly suggests that waist circumference is a strong predictor for heart failure,' he added.

'It is more reliable than BMI because it measures intra-abdominal fat, rather than the fat underneath the skin. A large waist circumference is not only linked to heart failure, but to conditions of all organ systems, for example, diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome and stroke.'

GPletters@haymarket.com

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