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Ann Epidemiol. 1990 Oct;1(1):33-48.

Body fat distribution, blood pressure, and hypertension. A prospective cohort study of men in the normative aging study.

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  • 1Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.


The relation between the abdominal accumulation of body fat, blood pressure, and hypertension was assessed prospectively among 1972 male participants in the Veterans Administration Normative Aging Study. Body mass index (BMI = weight [kg]/height [m]2) and the ratio of abdominal circumference to hip breadth (AC/HB), measured at regular exams, were used as indices of total adiposity and body fat distribution, respectively. Considering blood pressure as a continuous outcome variable (in models that allowed for intraclass correlation), the AC/HB ratio was significantly positively associated with both diastolic and systolic blood pressure (P < 0.001), adjusting for age and BMI. Blood pressure was dichotomized and hypertension risk was assessed using the proportional hazards model, adjusting for age and BMI. Seven hundred cases of hypertension were recorded by study physicians during 35,496 person-years of follow-up. The risk of hypertension increased approximately three-fold (95% confidence interval, 1.7 to 5.2) with a change of one unit in the AC/HB ratio. These estimates were little changed when the effects of smoking and alcohol intake were considered. Thus, the abdominal accumulation of body fat, apart from overall level of adiposity, was associated with both increased blood pressure and an increased risk of hypertension.

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