Beer belly doubles heart disease risk

London: Do you have a layer of flab around
the stomach? Beware, it may double your risk of dying from
heart disease or strokes, scientists say.

A US study of nearly 16,000 patients with coronary heart
disease found that having a "modest" beer belly, or muffin
top, can be as dangerous as smoking a packet of cigarettes a
day or having very high cholesterol.

The findings by researchers at the Mayo Clinic in
Rochester add to the evidence that heart problems and furred
arteries are not just linked to how much fat people have, but
also to the location of the fat, a newspaper reported.

Past studies have shown that "apple-shaped" women with
fat around their waists are at greater risk than "pear-shaped"
women whose fat is on their hips.

For their study, the Mayo researchers looked at data
from 15,923 patients with coronary heart disease and found
that those with fat around their waists were twice as likely
to die from the disease.

Study author Dr Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, said that fat
around the waist was more metabolically active.

"It produces more chances in cholesterol, blood pressure
and blood sugar," he said.

"However, people who have fat mostly in other locations
in the body, specifically the legs and buttocks, don`t show
this increased risk."

Doctors often assess a patient`s risk of coronary artery
disease by looking at their body mass index -- a measure that
takes into account someone`s weight and height.

However, the study authors said doctors should advise
patients with heart disease with normal BMIs to shed weight if
they have a large waist or high waist-to-hip ratio.

The study is published in the Journal of the American
College of Cardiology.