According to a new collaborative study from the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute and Johns Hopkins University, it’s better to be shaped like a pear — with most of the weight around the hips — than to be shaped like an apple, with most weight around the abdomen. The results of the study were reported April 2 at the 2016 American College of Cardiology Scientific Session in Chicago.
The collaborative research team studied 200 diabetic men and women who hadn’t yet exhibited signs of coronary disease. They found that regardless of total body weight or body mass index (BMI), abdominal obesity was more closely linked to regional left ventricular dysfunction: When the left ventricle is dysfunctional, blood backs up into the lungs and lower extremities, frequently leading to heart failure and increased risk of sudden cardiac arrest.
The study results suggest that abdominal obesity – the apple shape – is the strongest predictor of serious heart disease in patients who suffer from type 1 or type 2 diabetes, without any previous symptoms of heart disease. The reason is that apple-shaped body types are usually associated with a metabolic syndrome (such as higher blood pressure, higher sugar levels, and higher cholesterol levels), and coronary artery disease, as well as heart failure.
“Our research examined patients with diabetes, who are considered high risk for developing heart disease already, and found that the shape of your body determined if you were at a greater risk to develop left ventricular dysfunction,” Brent Muhlestein, co-director of research at the Intermountain Medical Center, said in a press release. “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.”
These results adds to the findings of a previously published study, called “faCTor-64,” which analyzed patients who were diabetic and considered at high risk for heart attacks, strokes, or similar conditions, but who had no signs of heart disease at the time. Participants were randomly screened for coronary disease by computed tomography (CT) coronary angiography, and then advised to change their care or lifestyle or to continue their routine standard care, based on the results. Afterward, patients were followed and monitored for future adverse heart problems.
The 200 participants who were CT screened also underwent an echocardiography exam to assess their left ventricular function – the heart chamber that pumps oxygen-rich blood to the brain and body.
The results showed that even though any form of obesity is harmful to the heart, abdominal obesity is worse than total body weight or BMI.
“We specifically found that waist circumference appears to be a stronger predictor for left ventricle dysfunction than total body weight or body mass index,” said Johns Hopkins’ principal investigator Boaz D. Rosen. “It will be important to see if these patients are indeed at risk of developing heart failure or coronary artery disease in the future.”