Fitness and abdominal obesity are independently associated with cardiovascular risk

E Ekblom-Bak, M-L Hellenius, O Ekblom, L-M Engström, B Ekblom
Journal of Internal Medicine 2009, 266 (6): 547-57

OBJECTIVES: To examine the relationship between cardiovascular fitness (VO(2)max) and abdominal obesity (waist circumference) and individual cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, as well as a clustered risk factor profile, and to study the impact of gender, age and smoking on these relationships.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional.

SETTING: Astrand Laboratory of Work Physiology, Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden.

SUBJECTS: Men (n = 781) and women (n = 890) from two random population-based samples of Swedish women and men aged 20 to 65 years.

MAIN OUTCOMES: Odds ratios.

RESULTS: Each unit of higher fitness was associated with a decrease in all individual risk factors ranging from 2% to 4% independent of waist circumference, each unit of higher waist circumference was associated with an increased risk ranging from 2% to 5% independent of fitness. For clustering of three or more of the risk factors, each unit of fitness was associated with a 5% decrease in risk and each unit of waist circumference with a 5% increase in risk. The clustered risk was higher in unfit participants who were older or smoked daily, regardless of waist circumference. Obese participants were at higher risk if they were men or older, regardless of fitness level. However, neither a higher fitness level nor lean status reduced the risk associated with smoking.

CONCLUSIONS: Higher fitness and lower waist circumference are each independently associated to a similar extent with a lower CVD risk. Simultaneous evaluation of both fitness and abdominal obesity status in clinical practice is important.

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