Objective: To determine the relation between fat distribution and blood pressure, independent of body mass index.
Design: Cross-sectional, population-based study.
Participants and methods: Participants, 9936 men and 12,154 women aged 45-79 years, were recruited from general practices in Norfolk, United Kingdom for the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC-Norfolk) study. Participants filled in a health and lifestyle questionnaire and their blood pressure and anthropometry were measured at a clinic. We mainly used waist-hip ratio (WHR) to assess body fat distribution.
Results: Systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) increased linearly across the whole range of waist-hip ratio in both men and women. The relation was independent of age, body mass index (BMI) and other covariates. Separately, waist and hip circumferences were positively related to SBP and DBP. When adjusted for BMI, waist circumference was positively related to SBP (in women) and DBP (in both men and women), whereas hip circumference was inversely related to SBP (but not DBP) in both men and women. Stratifying by tertiles of waist and hip circumference, age- and BMI-adjusted SBP and DBP were highest among those with high waist and small hip circumference measures.
Conclusion: Waist-hip ratio was independently related to blood pressure. Waist-hip ratio could reflect the separate and opposite relations of waist and hip circumferences on blood pressure. Characterizing patterns of fat distribution may have implications in the assessment and control of obesity-related blood pressure elevation.