New research from the American Heart Association has found an alternative way to measure the risk of heart disease. Previously, body mass index (BMI) is what was used to calculate heart disease risk. However, this new study has found that abdominal obesity and excess body fat around the body’s midsection and organs can help determine risk, even in patients with a healthy BMI weight range.
Published in the journal, Circulation, the study helps understand obesity and its impact on cardiovascular health problems. Abdominal obesity, also referred to as visceral adipose tissue (VAT), can now be used as a cardiovascular disease risk marker. VAT is determined by waist circumference to height or waist-to-hip ratio, which has been found to predict cardiovascular death separate from BMI.
“This scientific statement provides the most recent research and information on the relationship between obesity and obesity treatment in coronary heart disease, heart failure, and arrhythmias,” said Tiffany M. Powell-Wiley, MD, MPH, FAHA. “The timing of this information is important because the obesity epidemic contributes significantly to the global burden of cardiovascular disease and numerous chronic health conditions that also impact heart disease.”
Researchers are recommending that during regular health care visits, both abdominal measurements and BMI should be assessed. The findings of this study show the relevance of a high waist circumference or low waist-to-hip ratio, even in healthy-weight individuals. Along with the increased risk of heart disease, abdominal obesity is also linked to fat accumulation around the liver, leading to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Powell-Wiley confirms, “Studies that have examined the relationship between abdominal fat and cardiovascular outcomes confirm that visceral fat is a clear health hazard.”
Worldwide Obesity Problem
Worldwide, around 3 billion people are overweight or obese. This complex disease has been linked to many factors, including biological, psychological, environmental, and societal aspects. All these factors could also contribute to a person’s risk for obesity.
During this study, researchers evaluated the effectiveness of lifestyle changes for those who were overweight or obese. The group reported that reducing calories could reduce abdominal fat, and the most beneficial physical activity to reduce abdominal obesity is aerobic exercise.
By meeting the current recommendations of 150 minutes per week of physical activity, patients may be able to reduce abdominal fat. A combination of exercise and dietary changes has the most significant ability to reduce abdominal obesity.
Additional work is needed to identify interventions for patients with obesity that can help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease outcomes, including mortality. As overweight and obesity prevalence increases among adolescents worldwide, researchers must work to understand prevention interventions and cooperate with physicians to deliver treatment strategies, especially in young patients.