Body mass index (BMI), which gauges weight in relation to height, is only a crude way to judge obesity-related heart disease risk. According to the results of a new study, belly fat is a better measure of the risks than BMI, and abdominal obesity could be a greater risk factor than overall obesity.
Researchers looked at data from more than 100,000 men and women to test whether measuring sagittal abdominal diameter, or SAD, would improve the accuracy of predicting heart disease risk.
SAD is the distance from the back to the upper abdomen midway between the top of the pelvis and the bottom of the ribs. SAD is a more standardized measurement than waist circumference, and therefore less subject to error.
Men with the largest SAD were 42 percent more likely to develop heart disease, and a large SAD similarly increased heart disease risk by 44 percent for women. Heart disease risk also rose with SAD within BMI categories, even among men of normal weight.
The relationship between SAD and heart disease risk was strongest among the youngest men and women, indicating that people who develop central obesity earlier in life are more likely to have more serious problems.