A significant link between larger thigh circumference (more than 55cm in men and 54cm in women) and lower prevalence of high blood pressure was observed consistently in both men and women, independently of age, BMI and waist circumference.
A larger thigh circumference may be associated with lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of heart disease in people with obesity, according to a study by researchers from Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, China. They found that in overweight and people with obesity obese, larger thigh circumferences were associated with lower blood pressure. These findings suggest that carrying more weight on the thighs may be a marker of better heart health in Chinese people in these weight classes, who are at a greater risk of heart disease. Thigh circumference may be useful for targeting obese and overweight people for earlier detection high blood pressure.
The study ‘Large thigh circumference is associated with lower blood pressure in overweight and obese individuals: a community based study’, published in Endocrine Connections, Dr Zhen Yang and colleagues, from Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, investigated the association between thigh circumference and blood pressure in a population of 9,250 Chinese men and women aged 40 or older, of which 5,348 were overweight and had obesity, and 4,172 were a normal weight.
A significant link between larger thigh circumference (more than 55cm in men and 54cm in women) and lower prevalence of high blood pressure was observed consistently in both men and women, independently of age, BMI and waist circumference. Whereas those with a small thigh circumference (less than 50cm for women and 51cm for men) were more likely to have elevated blood pressure.
"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," Yang explained.
These findings suggest that thigh circumference could potentially be used as a convenient and inexpensive indicator for earlier detection and prevention of high blood pressure and other related complications, such as heart disease, in people with obesity or overweight people. However, due to large differences in thigh circumferences among different races and different physical activity groups, the thigh circumference sizes in this study may not be a reference for other populations.
Yang plans to further investigate this association by measuring body composition including thigh fat mass, thigh muscle mass, thigh bone mass and thigh proteins. Different proportions of these components may provide clues to the association between thigh circumference and blood pressure and may help us develop future treatments.