Waist-to-hip ratio and mortality in heart failure

Koen W. Streng, Adriaan A. Voors (Lead / Corresponding author), Hans L. Hillege, Stefan D. Anker, John G. F. Cleland, Kenneth Dickstein, Gerasimos S. Filippatos, Marco Metra, Leong Loke Ng, Piotr Ponikowski, Nilesh J. Samani, Dirk J. van Veldhuisen, Aeilko H. Zwinderman, Faiez Zannad, Kevin Damman, Peter van der Meer, Chim Lang

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Aims: A higher body mass index (BMI) is associated with better survival in heart failure (HF) patients, also known as the obesity paradox. However, BMI does not account for body composition. We therefore analysed the association between abdominal fat, measured via waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), BMI and all-cause mortality in patients with HF. Methods and results: For this analysis, 1738 patients from the Scottish BIOlogy Study to TAilored Treatment in Chronic Heart Failure (BIOSTAT-CHF) validation study were included. Patients without waist and hip measurements were excluded. WHR was defined as waist circumference/hip circumference, divided into tertiles and split for sex. A linear regression of principal components from an extensive panel of biomarkers was performed to provide insight in the pathophysiology behind a higher WHR. In total, 1479 patients were included, of which 33% were female and mean age was 75 ±11 years. A higher WHR was independently associated with a higher BMI, a higher prevalence of diabetes and higher New York Heart Association functional class. There was a significant interaction between sex and WHR on its association with mortality (P <0.001). In women, a higher WHR was associated with a higher mortality risk [hazard ratio (HR) 2.23, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.37–3.63; P =0.001], whereas no significant association was found in men (HR 0.87, 95% CI 0.63–1.20; P = 0.409). We found a strong association between a higher WHR and elevated markers of inflammation and MAPK cascade in women, while these associations were less profound in men. Conclusions: A higher WHR was associated with a higher risk of death in female but not in male HF patients. These findings challenge the obesity paradox, and suggest that fat deposition is pathophysiologically harmful and may be a target for therapy in female patients with HF.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1269-1277
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Heart Failure
Issue number9
Early online date2 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


  • Body mass index
  • Heart failure
  • Mortality
  • Obesity
  • Waist-to-hip ratio

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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