Healthy waistline, healthy arteries



A high waist circumference—even in people with a healthy body weight—represents a risk factor for poor arterial health. 

Here's one more reason to watch your waistline: the larger your waist circumference, the higher the odds that your arteries will become blocked, putting you at greater risk of a heart attack. 

Known as atherosclerosis, the progressive buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries will often trigger a heart attack, especially in smokers and people with high levels of bad cholesterol. High blood pressure, family history, a sedentary lifestyle and obesity also constitute major risk factors. Even so, over one-third of heart problems, especially in young people, are not linked to these conventional causes. Indeed, half of heart attack victims die at home because they showed no warning signs. Is it possible to quickly recognize individuals whose arteries clog for no apparent reason and prevent these unfortunate consequences?  

Eric Larose, cardiologist and researcher at the Québec Heart and Lung Institute (IUCPQ-UL) and professor in the Faculty of Medicine at Université Laval, relied on magnetic resonance imaging to detect and determine the composition of atherosclerotic plaque in a group of healthy patients. Because some fatty deposits are more dangerous than others, it is important to be able to characterize them. For example, an accumulation of over 40% lipids can lead to artery rupture. 

By analyzing the characteristics of the atherosclerosis, he found that a high waist circumference—even in people with a healthy body weight—represents a risk factor for poor arterial health. 

Dr. Larose therefore strongly advises clinicians to measure their patients' waistlines more often to better identify the individuals who are at risk of suffering from heart problems.