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New Study: Reducing Abdominal Fat May Not Lower Heart Attack Risk



In a report published in PLoS ONE, scientists studying the relationship between waist circumference and heart attacks say that middle aged men and women must do more than reduce their waist circumference if they hope to lower their heart attack risk.

Danish researchers wanted to know what effect changes in waist circumference would have on heart attack risk. To achieve this objective, they analyzed data from 38,593 middle-aged subjects (17,964 men and 20,629 women) who participated in the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health Study. Patients' abdominal fatness was initially assessed from 1993 to 1997 and again from 1999 to 2002. 

Researchers used National Registers to collect information on fatal and non-fatal heart attacks. During an eight year follow-up period, scientists noted an occurrence of 1,041 heart attacks. 


What Danish Researchers Found

When investigators looked at the relationship between waist circumference and heart attacks, they found only a weak correlation after making adjustments for participants' BMI. In other words, they did observe a relationship between high abdominal fat and heart attack risk but it was only negligible. 

Moreover, they could find no association between reduced waist circumference (reduced abdominal fat) and heart attack risk. Based on this observation the Danish research team said:"Our findings suggest that it is not possible to predict the risk of MI [myocardial infarction] associated with changes in WC from the risk associated with differences in WC measured at one point in time."

They noted that age may influence the impact of reduced abdominal fat on heart attack risk. Participants in the current study were between 50 - 64 years of age, their body fat may have already been redistributed to the abdominal area thus making it more difficult for them to benefit from "modest changes in WC".


Evidence That Reduced Abdominal Fat Does Improve Cardiovascular Health

The Danish study paints a bleak picture for middle aged persons with high abdominal body fat. It suggests that reducing abdominal body fat may not do much to reduce one's chances of suffering a heart attack. This is at odds with conventional wisdom which suggests that weight loss improves cardiovascular health. To cite just one example:

In 2002, Finnish researchers published their findings on a study involving abdominal body fat and heart attack risk in men between 40 - 62 years of age. Out of 1346 participants, 123 suffered heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems. Although the effect tended to be greatest among smoking, and "unfit" men, the underlying message is clear: high abdominal body fat increased heart attack risk.

People regardless of age benefit from reduced abdominal body fat. Excess body fat puts a strain on the heart, it causes atherosclerosis and inflammation. Reduction in body fat helps to improve cardiovascular health. Most health experts agree that balanced diet coupled with physical exercise are good for the heart.

You should do everything that you can to protect your health. Healthy lifestyle is a life long commitment, it's best to start the journey at an early age, but it's never too late to turn your life around. Overweight and obese people are at greater risk for heart disease than people of normal weight.  If you want to do something about it, then take charge of your life. Talk to your doctor about setting up a nutrition and fitness program that is best for you.


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Article Sources

Berentzen, TL, Jakobsen, MU, Stegger, JG, Halkjaer, J, Tjonneland, A et al. 2011 Changes in Waist Circumference and the Incidence of Acute Myocardial Infarction in Middle-Aged Men and Women. PLoS ONE 6(10): e26849. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0026849

Lakka, H.-M., Lakka, T.A. et al. Abdominal obesity is associated with increased risk of acute coronary events in men. Eur Heart J (2002) 23 (9): 706 - 713. doi:10.1053/euhj.2001.2889


 "New Study: Reducing Abdominal Fat May Not Lower Heart Attack Risk" copyright © 2011 Living Fit, Healthy and Happy(SM). All Rights Reserved.




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