People with bigger waists relative to their hips - commonly known as an 'apple shape' - have a significant increased risk of a heart attack, a study has found.
The study suggests a waist-to-hip radio could be a better predictor of heart attacks than general obesity, as measured using the body mass index (BMI) - which compares weight to height.
"Our findings suggest that differences in the way women and men store fat may affect their risk of heart disease," said lead author, Dr Sanne Peters, Research Fellow in Epidemiology at The George Institute, Oxford.
"Understanding the role sex differences in body fat distribution play in future health problems could lead to sex-specific public-health interventions that could address the global obesity epidemic more effectively."
The study looked at the impact of fat distribution of 500,000 men and women and found the risk of heart disease was 10 to 20 per cent greater among those with bigger waists and higher waist-to-hip and waist-to-height ratios.
Waist-to-hip ratio was the strongest predictor of heart attack in women compared to men.
Dr Peters said each increase in hip-to-waist ratio increased the risk of heart attack by 49 per cent in women and 36 per cent in men.
The mechanisms for this association is not understood and further research is needed, however, Dr Peters hopes the findings will have clinical implications.
"We should think about more intense screening of women with an apple shape," Dr Peters said.