Well-toned hips and a trim waist appear to be the best protection against heart attacks. Researchers reported in this week's issue of The Lancet medical journal that the ratio of hip circumference to waist measurement is a better predictor of the risk of heart attack than is body mass index, or BMI. The INTERHEART study, directed by Dr. Salim Yusuf of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, drew on data from 27,098 people in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas, including 12,461 who had suffered a heart attack.
Body mass index, based on weight and height, takes no notice of where fat is or how muscular a person is, said Dr. Arya Sharma, professor of medicine at McMaster University and co-author of the study. An athlete and a couch potato could have similar BMI scores, he noted, the AP reports.
Researchers measured the unclothed abdomen at the narrowest point, and the hip circumference over light clothing at the widest part of the buttocks.
Overall, waist measurements were about 90 percent of the hip measurements. People in China scored best at 88 percent, followed by 89 percent in southeast Asia, 90 percent in North America, 92 percent in Africa, 93 percent in the Middle East and 94 percent in South America.
A 75-centimeter waist and 90-centimeter hips, or a 30-inch waist and 36-inch hips, for instance, works out to a favorable 83 percent.
The risk of heart attack rose progressively as the ratio of waist circumference increased in proportion to hip circumference. The 20 percent of the survey who had the highest ratio were 2.5 times more at risk than those in the lowest 20 percent, the study found.
That finding, it said, suggested a two-part strategy: trimming the abdomen, and possibly increasing hip circumference by increasing muscle mass or redistributing fat. A.M.