Is your ‘muffin top’ increasing your risk for heart disease?

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Pro
  • Are you familiar with the apple versus pear body shape references?

    If you carry excess weight around your waistline/belly you have an apple body shape. If extra fat stores tend to deposit around your hips and thighs you're described as having a pear body shape.

    A new study published in the May 10th issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology shows that even a small ‘beer belly' or ‘muffin top' may put people with coronary artery disease risk at high mortality risk.

    Mayo Clinic researchers looked at the medical history of 15,923 people with coronary artery disease collected from five worldwide studies. Participants with abdominal obesity - measured by waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio - had twice the risk of dying. This is comparable to the risk of death for individuals smoking a pack of cigarettes daily.

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    According to researchers if you accumulate fat around your belly you are at greater risk of death compared to those who store fat elsewhere on their body. Mayo Clinic researchers state this is true even if you have a normal body mass index.

    Why are individuals with a healthy body weight still at risk?

    Abdominal or belly fat is called visceral fat. This visceral fat is found to be more metabolically active. This means it causes increased changes with cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.

    Take Away Message

    It's been know for quite some time that individuals with an apple body shape are at increased risk of heart disease. However, I think it's been assumed this is the case only if you are overweight.

    According to this new research you can have a healthy body weight, but if you still carry excess fat around your middle your risk is elevated.

    Pull at the tape measure and see where you fall.

    Men with a waist circumference greater than 40 inches and women with a waist circumference greater than 35 inches are at increased risk of heart disease.

    Here's a link to the Health Central Waist-to-Hip Calculator where you can learn if your ratio is within a normal range or not - Waist-to-Hip Calculator.


    Be sure to sign up for the free e-course 7 Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure provided by Health Central dietitian Lisa Nelson at

Published On: May 09, 2011