Objective: To evaluate clinical measures of obesity for their ability to predict death from cardiovascular disease (CVD) and coronary heart disease (CHD), in parallel with conventional cardiovascular risk factors.
Design, participants and setting: Cross-sectional analysis of an age- and sex-stratified sample of 9206 adults aged 20-69 years from Australian capital cities (1989 Australian Risk Factor Prevalence Survey). Blood pressure, fasting serum lipid levels, smoking, history of heart disease or diabetes, and obesity as measured by body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and waist-hip ratio were recorded. These data were linked with the National Death Index to determine causes of death of the 473 survey subjects who had died to 31 December 2000.
Main outcome measures: Hazard ratios for the risk factors predicting CVD mortality and CHD mortality.
Results: Of the modifiable risk factors, obesity, as measured by waist-hip ratio, is a dominant, independent, predictive variable for CVD and CHD deaths in Australian men and women. Self-reported angina/myocardial infarction in both sexes, and cigarette smoking in women, are also independent risk factors.
Conclusions: Obesity assessed by waist-hip ratio is a better predictor of CVD and CHD mortality than waist circumference, which, in turn, is a better predictor than BMI. The recognition of central obesity is clinically important, as lifestyle intervention is likely to provide significant health benefits.