Are apple or pear shaped postmenopausal women most at risk of cardiovascular disease?

pear and apple on blue cloth as an art composition still life

According to research from the European Society of Cardiology, ‘apple shaped’ postmenopausal women are at greater risk of cardiovascular disease than those who are ‘pear shaped’.

The research found that, even if they have a normal, healthy BMI (body mass index), the apple shaped postmenopausal women have an increased risk of heart and blood vessel problems compared to pear shaped postmenopausal women.

The highest risk of cardiovascular disease was in women with the highest percentage of fat around their middle and the lowest percentage of leg fat. It was found that they had a more than three times increased risk compared to women with the least body fat and the most leg fat.

Considering BMI and body shape

Dr Qibin Qi, an associate professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York (USA), commented: “In routine clinical practice, BMI is a common approach to assessing a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease. ”

“Measurement of waist circumference is also recommended by national organisation to provide additional information, but usually only in those with a BMI between 25 to 34.9 kg/m2. As such, some people who are categorised as being a normal weight may not be recognised as being at increased risk of cardiovascular disease due to the distribution of their body fat, and so may not have preventive measures recommended for them.”

Lifestyle factors contributing to apple and pear shaped bodies

“While there have been some large studies of genetic determinants of upper- and lower-body fat, fewer large studies have focused on lifestyles factors, though modifiable factors such as physical activity and dietary intakes are thought to play key roles in determining an individual’s fat distribution,” explained Dr Qi.

“In the next step, our group will focus on the long-term impacts of dietary habits on fat distribution among these postmenopausal women, and evaluate whether and how dietary habits may affect multiple health risks, such as risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and premature death, through the impacts on the distribution of body fat.”

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