Comparison of Measures of Adiposity and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors Among African American Adults: the Jackson Heart Study

J Racial Ethn Health Disparities. 2018 Dec;5(6):1230-1237. doi: 10.1007/s40615-018-0469-y. Epub 2018 Feb 9.


Obesity, particularly central adiposity, is a well-established risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD). Waist circumference (WC) is measured in numerous epidemiologic studies as a relatively simple indicator of central adiposity. However, recently, investigators have considered a measure that takes height into consideration, waist-to-height ratio (WHtR) as a more sensitive predictor of CVD. A limited number of studies have examined the association between various measures of central adiposity and obesity with CVD, but there is a dearth of information on this topic focused specifically on African American adults. Given the high rates of cardiovascular disease and metabolic risk factors in this population, it is important to develop validated, easy-to-measure indicators of CVD risk for clinical use. Data from 4758 African American adults participating in the baseline visit of the Jackson Heart Study with available risk factor data were examined, with three measures of body habitus (body mass index (BMI), WC, and WHtR) and five CVD risk factors (HDL and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, diabetes, and hypertension), the latter also categorized into multiple (2+) risk factors present. C-statistics for waist circumference (WC), BMI, and WHtR were computed and compared for each model to assess their discriminant abilities. WHtR was a stronger correlate of HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, diabetes, hypertension, and multiple risk factors compared to BMI, and was a stronger correlate of HDL cholesterol when compared to WC. These data indicate that, for African American adults, WHtR may be more appropriate measure to identify those at elevated risk for CVD.

Keywords: African Americans; Cardiovascular disease; Obesity; Waist circumference.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Diabetes Mellitus / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity, Abdominal / diagnosis*
  • Obesity, Abdominal / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Waist Circumference*
  • Waist-Height Ratio*
  • Young Adult


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Triglycerides