According to new research presented at the virtual American Heart Association’s Hypertension 2020 Scientific Sessions, determines a relation between decreased risk of high blood pressure in people with fatty legs.
Fatty legs mean that there is more concentration of fatty tissues in the legs as compared to other body tissues.
“Ultimately, what we noted in this study is a continued discussion of ‘it’s not just how much fat you have, but where the fat is located,’” said principal investigator Aayush Visaria, M.P.H., a fourth-year medical student at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark, New Jersey. “Although we know confidently that fat around your waist is detrimental to health, the same cannot be said for leg fat. If you have fat around your legs, it is more than likely not a bad thing and may even be protecting you from hypertension, according to our findings.”
The investigators taking part in research examines the rate of three types of blood pressure in nearly 6000 adults with fatty tissues in legs enrolled in the 2011-2016 Survey of National Health & Nutrition Examination.
The average age of the enrolled participants was 37. Of the total, nearly half were female, and 24% had high blood pressure, measuring >130/80 mm Hg.
The investigators classified the participants as having a high or low percentage of leg fat. The high fat is more significant than 34% in males and 39% or more for females. Special X-ray is used to measure the fat tissue in legs in comparison to overall body fat.
Participants with higher leg fat were less likely to have all types of high blood pressure than those with lower levels of fat. The analysis found:
A comparison of lower percentages of leg fat, participants with higher rates of leg fat shows that adults with higher leg fats were 61% less likely to have a high blood pressure with both numbers elevated.
Besides, there was 53% lower risk for diastolic high blood pressure for participants with higher leg fat (the second number in a blood pressure reading, measuring pressure between heartbeats) and 39% less risk for systolic high blood pressure (the first number in a reading of blood pressure).
The risk for high blood pressure remains lower among participants with higher percentages of leg fat even after adjusting for various factors. The factors include age, sex, education, smoking, alcohol use, cholesterol levels and waist fat, race and ethnicity. However, not as low as before adjusting these factors.
“If larger, more robust studies confirm these results, and in studies using easily accessible measurement methods like thigh circumference, there is the potential to affect patient care,” Visaria said. “Just as waist circumference is used to estimate abdominal fat, thigh circumference may be a useful tool, although it’s a bit cumbersome and not as widely studied in the U.S. population.”
Several limitations may have affected the study’s results. First, the study could not determine the leading cause and effect. It is because the information on blood pressure and measurement of the percentage of fat tissue in the legs were measured simultaneously. Second, larger groups of participants are required to gather more accurate information regarding the effects on high blood pressure due to varying degrees of fat tissue in the legs. Finally, all the participants that took part in the study were under the age of 60. Therefore, the results may not be attributed to older adults, who are usually at greater risk for high blood pressure.