Wolverhampton study finds exercise is the biggest factor in preventing heart disease

Researchers from the University of Wolverhampton have found the single most important factor in maintaining a healthy heart is being fit; irrespective of ‘fat’ scores such as body mass index (BMI), waist-to-hip (WHR) or waist-to-height ratio (WTHR).

The study of over 4,500 individuals, which was published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, aimed to find out whether a new fat ratio is the best way of determining someone’s risk of heart disease.

Researchers were concerned that the commonly used indices of fat didn’t account for a person’s body size and therefore were not the best indicators of how likely someone was to develop heart disease (referenced in the study as cardiometabolic risk - CMR).

Lead researcher Professor Alan Nevill from the University of Wolverhampton’s Institute of Sport explained: “Our project objective was to find out which body size index or ratio was best for predicting how likely someone was to develop heart disease.

“In order to test heart healthiness we asked the participants to undergo a number of tests in order to assess their CMR. We then analysed CMR against various fat ratios such as BMI, WHR, WTHR and two new tests; a body shape index (ABSI) and waist-to-height square rooted (WHT.5R). In all tests, the fitter participants’ CMR score was significantly lower, confirming that being fit and active can compensate for the adverse effects measured in all fat ratios.

“We were worried that by calculating the popular WTHR, very tall people could have quite large waists, (and therefore be at risk), but their ratio could still be within the ‘less than half of your height’ recommendation. This also works conversely for very short people, who might have perfectly healthy waists but think they are overweight because they are short.”

To be able to measure CMR, all participants fasted before the test. They walked on treadmill for as long as they could, or until the researchers deemed it necessary to stop them. Their heart rates and oxygen intakes were monitored so a peak oxygen intake level could be calculated. The health of the heart was measured by testing blood samples for glucose and cholesterol as well as heart rate and blood pressure, both before during and after exercise.

In addition to the findings on exercise, the study concluded that the best predictor of CMR using a body shape index alone was to divide waist by the square root of height. 

Professor Nevill said: “By dividing a person’s waist ratio by the square root of their height, we are able to give a reading that works for everyone, independent of how tall or short they are.”

The authors recommend that participants’ waist girths (in metres) should not exceed the values in the table below (for different heights also in metres) to avoid being at risk of a critically high cardiometabolic score.

Waist

0.89

0.90

0.91

0.92

0.94

0.95

0.96

0.97

0.98

0.99

1.00

1.01

1.02

1.03

Height

1.5

1.54

1.58

1.62

1.66

1.7

1.74

1.78

1.82

1.86

1.9

1.94

1.98

2.02

Read the story in the Daily Mail.

ENDS

Date Issued: Tuesday 7 March 2017

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