A new study conducted by the Research Division of Kaiser Permanente of Northern California in Oakland suggests that it is the size of our abdomen and not our overall BMI that predicts possible heart disease.

The thing is that high BMI could actually mean a high load of muscles instead of fat and the scientists decided to look at another factor known as SAD i.e. sagittal abdominal diameter.

Also called "supine abdominal height", SAD has been used for predicted mortality in men. SAD is measured by a health worker using a caliper and represents the girth around the abdomen at a height that is half way between the top of your pelvis and your lower ribs.

The study included around 100, 000 people who were followed up for a course of 12 years. After all the social and lifestyle factors, such as age, sex, education, BMI, smoking, alcohol and HRT in women, had been adjusted, it was shown that men in the top 25% of SAD girth measurement had a 42% higher risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) than those in the bottom 25% of SAD girth measurement while the female figure was 44%.

The results within the same BMI range showed that SAD was a good predictor. Two people with the same BMI would have different risks of CHD relative to their abdominal sizes.

The younger the person is when they develop a large belly, the bigger risks of complications later in life.