Monday, 23 January 2006 00:00

Widening Waist a Heart Risk Factor for Women

MONDAY, Jan. 23 (HealthDay News) -- A tape measure may help a woman gauge her risk for heart disease.

American researchers say women with a waist circumference of 35 inches or more are more likely to develop heart disease than women with smaller waistlines.

Researchers at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City analyzed data from 6,000 women without known heart disease who had their waistlines measured on National Women's Heart Day in February 2005.

The study found that at least 90 percent of the women had at least one major risk factor for heart disease, and one-third of the women had three or more risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Increases in waist circumference were also correlated with a woman's 10-year chance of having a heart attack or dying of heart disease, the researchers noted in the current issue of the Journal of Women's Health.

Many of the women were unaware they had major heart disease risk factors. Nearly half of those with elevated cholesterol or low HDL ("good") cholesterol said no health-care provider had ever told them they had abnormal cholesterol levels.

Forty-three percent of the women had higher-than-normal blood glucose levels and 16 percent of women with no documented history of hypertension were found to have high blood pressure requiring treatment.

"Measuring waist circumference may be a simple method that women can identify themselves as being at increased heart attack risk and empower them to seek further evaluation and possible treatment from their doctors," study lead author Dr. Lori Mosca, director of preventive cardiology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and professor of medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, said in a prepared statement.

The next National Women's Heart Day will take place Feb. 17 in 14 cities across the United States.

"These findings underscore the need to educate women about their personal risk of cardiovascular disease and educate them that where there is one risk factor present, there are likely more," Mosca said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about heart disease and women.