Overweight people with large thighs may be less susceptible to heart disease — especially if you’re Chinese. Researchers found this link in a study of over 9,000 Chinese men and women. The results were published in the journal Endocrine Connections.
The Danger of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a notorious health problem that affects over one billion people globally and is the leading cause of death and disability around the world. Many variables contribute to high blood pressure such as overweight, lack of exercise, smoking, or a high amount of salt in the diet. Chronic high blood pressure increases the risk of serious health conditions such as heart disease and stroke.
Past findings have shown people with large waist are susceptible to high blood pressure and people with small thighs have higher risks of diabetes. No studies have been done comparing any links between waist circumference and high blood pressure.
This study involved 9,250 Chinese men and women aged 40 or older. Of the group, 5,348 were overweight and obese, and 4,172 were normal weight.
Larger Thighs Linked to Less Risk of High Blood Pressure
The study findings indicated that those with larger thigh circumference measuring more than 21.7 inches (55 cm) in men and 21.3 inches (54 cm) in women) were linked to lower prevalence of high blood pressure, regardless of age, body mass index, and waist circumference. In other words, larger thighs is an indicator of less risk of high blood pressure.
Smaller Thighs Indicated Higher Risk of Blood Pressure
The opposite was true in the study. People with small thigh circumference — less than 19.7 inches (50 cm) for women and 20.1 inches (51 cm) for men – indicated more risk of high blood pressure.
Zhen Yang, one of the study author, explained that having more thigh muscles and fat may be beneficial.
“In contrast to stomach fat, leg fat may be beneficial for metabolism. The most likely cause of this association is that there is more thigh muscle and/or fat deposited under the skin which secretes various beneficial substances that help keep blood pressure in a relatively stable range,” he said.
More Data From Other Populations Needed
Being able to ascertain the risk of high blood pressure by measuring the size of one’s thigh would be a very simple and inexpensive method of predicting heart disease in obese people. For this study, there is one caveat – the population examined in the study was Chinese people. There are large differences in thigh circumferences among different races and different physical activity groups. More data needs to be accumulated to see if the link of thigh size to high blood pressure and heart disease holds up in other populations.