Large Neck May Indicate Heart Risks
A new study finds that a person’s neck thickness may provide as many clues about their risk of developing heart problems as their waist measurement.
Researchers from the Framingham Heart Study found that even those with relatively small waistlines seemed to be at greater risk of heart problems if they had larger necks. The study defined risk as having higher blood glucose levels or lower levels of “good” cholesterol.
The researchers examined more than 3,300 study participants with an average age of 51, and found evidence that health depended not on how
fat a person was, but where their fat was located, said professor Jimmy Bell of the MRC Clinical Sciences Center.
In this study, the average neck circumference was 34.2cm for women, and 40.5cm for men, and as neck circumference grew, so did the risk factors for heart problems.
For every 3cm increase in neck circumference, men had 2.2 milligrams less of good cholesterol per deciliter of blood (mg/dl) and women 2.7mg/dl.
Good cholesterol, also known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL), takes cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver, where it is broken down.
Measurements of less than 40mg/dl in men and 50 mg/dl in women are believed to increase the risk of heart disease.
The researchers found that neck size made no difference to levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), also known as “bad cholesterol”, which can cause harm. However, it did affect blood glucose levels such that for every 3cm more of neck circumference men had 3.0mg/dl more and women 2.1mg/dl of LDL.
Normal fasting blood glucose levels are below 100 mg/dl, and higher levels are believed to be an accurate indicator of future heart problems.
And while the risk was higher independent of waistline, it was compounded for those who had both a larger waist and neck circumference.
The scientists speculated that a thick neck may be a “crude measure” of upper body fat, something associated with heart risks.
“What you don’t want is fat around your liver or heart, and this can happen even if you look fine on the outside. Dieting isn’t what you need to shift this – it’s exercise,” a BBC News report quoted professor Bell as saying.
The results were presented to a meeting of the American Heart Association.
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