Big Belly, Bigger Heart Risks

Big Belly, Bigger Heart Risks
Highlights

Having a beer belly significantly increases the risk for sudden cardiac death, a new study has found. Sudden cardiac death is the result of an electrical malfunction that causes the heart to beat irregularly.

Having a beer belly significantly increases the risk for sudden cardiac death, a new study has found. Sudden cardiac death is the result of an electrical malfunction that causes the heart to beat irregularly. It is not the same as a heart attack, which results from a failure of blood circulation to the heart, but it accounts for about half of all cardiac-related deaths.

Researchers followed 14,941 men and women, with an average age of 54 at the start of the study, for almost 13 years. The subjects had detailed health examinations five times, and there were 253 sudden cardiac deaths. The study is online in Heart. As the researchers expected, those who died suddenly had higher rates of other cardiac risk factors, including obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol and more. But independent of these factors, those with the highest waist-to-hip ratio had more than double the risk of sudden cardiac death compared with those in the normal range. The increased risk was apparent only in nonsmokers.

"We're not sure what's mediating it," said the lead author, Dr. Ahmet Selcuk Adabag, a cardiologist in Minneapolis. "But abdominal obesity is much more inflammatory, much worse than general obesity." For those with a midriff bulge, Adabag said, "there is no easy answer. You have to make a significant effort to reduce your cardiac risk by weight loss, diet and exercise."

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