The risk of sudden cardiac death is higher among people with a large waist-to-hip ratio, according to data presented at the Heart Rhythm Society annual meeting.

Researchers collected data on three measures of obesity — BMI, waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio — from 15,156 people who took part in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study.

During the average 12.6-year follow-up 301 people died from sudden cardiac death. At first it appeared that all three measures of obesity were associated with the risk of sudden cardiac death, but after controlling for obesity-related conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, only the association with higher waist-to-hip remained significant.

Men and women in the group with the highest waist-to-hip ratio (1.01 for men and .97 for women, which means that their waist size was almost as large or larger than their hip size) had a relative 40% higher risk of sudden cardiac death than men and women in the group with the lowest waist-to-hip ratio (less than .92 for men and less than .82 for women).

Inflammation associated with abdominal fat could explain these findings.