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Beer Bellies Anyone? Waist Measurement Can Determine Risk For Heart Disease


Extra fat that accumulates around the abdomen goes by many names: beer belly, spare tire, love handles, apple shape, middle-age spread, and the more technical “abdominal obesity.” No matter what the name, it is the shape of risk.

Abdominal obesity increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, and other woes. The danger zone is a waist size above 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women.

As I describe in the April 2011 issue of the Harvard Men’s Health Watch, beer is not specifically responsible for a beer belly. What, then, is to blame? Calories. Take in more calories with food and drink than you burn up with exercise, and you’ll store the excess energy in fat cells.

Many studies indicate that people who store their extra fat around the midsection (apple shape) are at greater risk for heart and other problems than people who carry it around their thighs (pear shape). An analysis of 58 earlier studies covering over 220,000 men and women suggests that excess fat is harmful no matter where it ends up. This work was published in The Lancet. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Harvard Health Blog*

Obesity Beats Adiposity For Cardiovascular Risk

Obesity contributes to cardiovascular risk no matter where a person carries the weight, concluded researchers after looking at outcomes for nearly a quarter-million people worldwide.

Body mass index, (BMI) waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio do not predict cardiovascular disease risk any better when physicians recorded systolic blood pressure, history of diabetes and cholesterol levels, researchers reported in The Lancet.

The research group used individual records from 58 prospective studies with at least one year of follow up. In each study, participants were not selected on the basis of having previous vascular disease. Each study provided baseline for weight, height, and waist and hip circumference. Cause-specific mortality or vascular morbidity were recorded according to well defined criteria.

Individual records included 221,934 people in 17 countries. In people with BMI of 20 kg/m2 or higher, hazard ratios for cardiovascular disease were 1.23 (95 percent CI, 1.17 to 1.29) with BMI, 1.27 (95 percent CI, 1.20 to 1.33) with waist circumference, and 1.25 (95 percent CI, 1.19 to 1.31) with waist-to-hip ratio, after adjustment for age, sex, and smoking status. After adjusting for baseline systolic blood pressure, history of diabetes, and total and HDL cholesterol, corresponding hazard rations were 1.07 (95 percent CI, 1.03 to 1.11) with BMI, 1.10 (95 percent CI, 1.05 to 1.14) with waist circumference, and 1.12 (95 percent CI, 1.08 to 1.15) with waist-to-hip ratio.

BMI, waist circumference, or waist-to-hip ratio did not importantly improve risk discrimination or predicted 10-year risk, and the findings remained the same when adiposity — the carrying of adipose tissue (fat) — measures were considered. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

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I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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