When women reach the menopause, changes in their body shape and metabolism can cause more to be stored around the organs in the body rather than underneath the skin.
According to the results, neither whole-body fat mass nor fat percentage was associated with increased CVD risk, even after adjustment for demographics, lifestyle, and other clinical risk factors.
"Exercise will help with weight loss, but we don't know what kind of exercise would relocate body fat", Qibin Qi, senior author and an associate professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine was quoted as saying.
A new study in the European Heart Journal, the first to look at the location of stored fat and its association with cardiovascular disease (CVD) in postmenopausal women, included 2,683 postmenopausal women with normal body mass index (BMI) from the Women's Health Initiative with no identified CVD at baseline.
On the flip side, that risk was 40 percent lower in women whose weight was mostly in the legs, compared to those who had the least weight in their legs.
For the study, researchers gathered data on almost 162,000 postmenopausal women who took part in the Women's Health Initiative study between 1993 and 1998.
Overall, the women with the very highest proportion of fat around their middle were three times more likely to get cardiovascular disease than women at the opposite extreme with the most leg fat.
Besides weight, people need to pay attention to where the weight is, Qi said. These women were more than three times more likely to develop heart disease than women who had the opposite shape: fatter thighs and flatter stomachs.
Prof Qi says it is all about trying to reduce belly fat, so the ratio of belly to leg fat is better. "Whether the pattern of the associations could be generalizable to younger women and to men who had relatively lower regional body fat remains unknown".
"Measurement of waist circumference is also recommended by national organisation to provide additional information, but usually only in those with a BMI between 25 to 34.9 kg/m2".
However, the researchers stress that the findings only show that where body fat is stored is associated with the risk of CVD, not a causal relationship.
American scientists from NY Medical College albert Einstein came to the conclusion that the risk of heart attacks and strokes in women may depend on the type of shape, according to the portal.
In an editorial published alongside the new study, Dr. Matthias Blüher and Dr. Ulrich Laufs, both of University of Leipzig in Germany, note that previous studies have shown that lower body weight along with higher body weight are linked to an increased risk of developing atherosclerosis.