Fat and Heart Disease: New research finds that adults who have fatter legs were less likely to have high blood pressure. These are the findings of new research that will be presented at the American Heart Association’s Hypertension 2020 Scientific Sessions.
The researchers conducting the study examined the rate of three types of high blood pressure in relation to the percentage of fat tissue in the legs. They looked at nearly 6,000 adults enrolled in the 2011-2016 National Health & Nutrition Examination Surveys. According to the report, the average age of the participants was 37. Nearly half were female and 24% had high blood pressure, defined as blood pressure that is greater than 130/80 mm Hg.
“Ultimately, what we noted in this study is a continued discussion of ‘it’s not just how much fat you have, but where the fat is located,'” said principal investigator Aayush Visaria, M.P.H. Visaria is a fourth-year medical student at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark, New Jersey. “Although we know confidently that fat around your waist is detrimental to health, the same cannot be said for leg fat. If you have fat around your legs, it is more than likely not a bad thing and may even be protecting you from hypertension, according to our findings.”
Compared to those with lower percentages of leg fat, participants with higher percentages of leg fat were 61% less likely to have the type of high blood pressure where both numbers are elevated.
The risk for participants with higher leg fat was 53% lower for diastolic high blood pressure. That is the second number in a blood pressure reading which measures pressure between heart beats. It was 39% lower for systolic high blood pressure. This is the first number in a reading, measuring pressure when the heart beats.
After adjusting for various factors, such as age, sex, race and ethnicity, education, smoking, alcohol use, cholesterol levels and waist fat, the risk for high blood pressure was still lower among participants with higher percentages of leg fat, although not as low as before adjusting for these factors.The report notes that study participants were under the age of 60. They indicate that the results may not apply to older adults, who are generally at greater risk for high blood pressure.
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