Waist Shape May Predict Heart Disease

April 12th 2016
Meghan Ross, Senior Associate Editor
Meghan Ross, Senior Associate Editor

Pears are better than apples, at least in terms of waistlines.

Pears are better than apples, at least in terms of waistlines.

Researchers from Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute and Johns Hopkins Hospital recently uncovered evidence that abdominal obesity—meaning the body is shaped like an apple—may be able to predict heart disease in patients with diabetes.

This rings true even in those who aren’t currently showing symptoms of heart disease, the researchers found. Apple-shaped bodies may also hint at left ventricular dysfunction.

Previous research has shown that abdominal obesity is linked with metabolic syndrome, coronary artery disease, and heart failure.

The new research involved 200 patients with diabetes and no signs of coronary disease. They underwent CT screenings and echocardiography to get a better look at their left ventricular function.

After adjusting for factors like body mass index and total body weight, the researchers discovered that abdominal obesity was still associated with regional left ventricular dysfunction.

"This study confirms that having an apple-shaped body—or a high waist circumference—can lead to heart disease, and that reducing your waist size can reduce your risks," said Brent Muhlestein, co-director of research at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, in a press release.

Retail clinicians can help patients reshape their waistlines in a number of ways.

“I think nurse practitioners and physician assistants could play an important role in setting up a simple system in clinics whereby at the same time that a patient is weighed and height is measured, waist circumference is also collected,” study author J. Brent Muhlestein, MD, co-director of research at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute, toldContemporary Clinic.“Then, they could instruct the patients on their individual risk, provide lifestyle counseling, and then track individual patients’ progress over time. I think tracking waist circumference along with weight and body mass index could be very helpful.”

Clinicians can also recommend the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet or popular diet programs like Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers. They can also advise patients toweighthemselves every day, which has proven to be helpful in maintaining weight loss.

In addition, retail clinicians can inform patients about realistic weight-loss goals.

According to the American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology, and Obesity Society Guideline, patients should try to lose around 5% to 10% of body weight in the first 6 months. If patients can’t meet this goal, retail clinicians can encourage them that even a 3% to 5% difference has shown clinical benefit.

Previous research from Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute and Johns Hopkins Hospital suggested that as patients’ body mass index grows, so does their risk for heart disease.

The FaCTor-64 study also involved patients with diabetes who were identified as having a high risk for heart attacks, strokes, or death but showed no signs of heart disease. They were informed how to change their lifestyle, they continued with their diabetes treatment, and they were screened for coronary artery disease by CT coronary angiography. The researchers tracked their adverse heart events over the study period.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the United States, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. In addition to weight issues, other factors that can affect one’s odds of developing heart disease include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, smoking, diabetes, and physical inactivity.

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