Thursday, May 29, 2008

Beware of Heart Disease Even If You Have Normal BMI!

Body mass index (BMI) is the ratio of weight to height. The formula used to calculate BMI is:

BMI (kg/m2) = (weight in kg)/(height in meter x height in meter)

With the help of BMI, a person can be classified as underweight or overweight. Based on the guidelines provided by WHO (World Health Organization), people with BMI of 30 and above will be classified as obese, those with 25 to 29.9 as overweight, and those with less than 18.5 as underweight. A healthy person should have a BMI reading between 18.5 and 24.9.

An overweight or obese person tends to have a higher risk of getting heart disease. Therefore, if your BMI falls within the healthy range, you should be relieved. Unfortunately, this might not be true. Why?

During the American College of Cardiology's 57th Annual Scientific Session held in the month of April 2008, findings from Mayo Clinic revealed that patients with a normal BMI could still have a high body fat content that can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The researchers studied on so-called 'Normal Weight Obesity' of 2,127 subjects with a BMI in the normal range. Normal weight obesity was defined as a body fat content higher than 20 percent for men and 30 percent for women.

All the participants’ body composition was measured and a full assessment was made of body size variables and cardiovascular risk factors.

It was found that 1,321 participants had normal weight obesity, while the balance 806 had a normal body fat content. Meanwhile, the investigators also found that 13.6 percent of the normal weight obese individuals met the criteria for metabolic syndrome, comparing to 5.3 percent of those who had a normal weight without a high body fat content.

The metabolic syndrome refers to a cluster of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including high blood sugar, high levels of the 'bad' cholesterol (LDL) and triglyceride levels, low levels of the 'good' cholesterol (HDL), high blood pressure and excess belly fat.

In the study, those participants found with normal weight obesity actually had a high waist circumference, high triglyceride levels, high fasting blood sugar levels or a diagnosis of diabetes, and other metabolic markers associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

The researchers suggested that public health measures to prevent heart disease should measure the belly or assess percentage of body fat instead of just tracking weight and BMI.

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