Abdominal obesity is a known independent risk factor for heart disease. Based on results of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer cohort study (Epic-Norfolk), researchers have found that using the waist-hip ratio rather than waist measurement alone is a better predictor of heart disease risk.

The research was based on 24,508 men and women ages 45 to 79 in the United Kingdom who participated in the EPIC-Norfolk, which is based at the University of Cambridge. Researchers measured participants' weight, height, waist circumference, hip circumference, and other heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol from 1993 to 1997. They followed up with participants for an average 9.1 years.

During the follow-up, 1,708 men and 892 women developed heart disease. The men and women were divided into groups according to waist-hip ratio, and those with the highest waist-hip ratio had the highest heart disease risk. Women in the highest waist-hip ratio group were 91 percent more likely to develop heart disease than women in the smallest waist-hip ratio group. Having a large waist with comparably large hips was preferable to a large waist with small hips.

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