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Last Updated: Saturday, 13 September, 2003, 23:02 GMT 00:02 UK
Lesbians 'have higher heart disease risk'
Health messages may not be getting through to lesbians
Lesbians are generally fatter and have a higher risk of heart disease compared to other women, a study suggests.

Researchers in the United States based their findings on a study of 324 lesbians living in California.

They believe the differences may be linked to the fact that the lesbians they studied were less concerned about their weight compared with other women.

They said the findings highlighted the need to encourage lesbians to exercise more and lose weight.

Overweight

Dr Stephanie Roberts and colleagues at the University of California San Francisco questioned an equal number of lesbian and heterosexual women about their weight.

They found that on average lesbian women had a higher body mass index, larger waist and bigger waist to hip ratios compared with the other women.

Weight control is often perceived as a conventionally feminine behaviour
Dr Stephanie Roberts,
University of California San Francisco
A high body mass index - a measure of body fat based on height and weight - is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and severe chest pain.

Excess fat around the waist has also been linked to an increase risk of heart disease.

In addition, the researchers found lesbian women were more likely to have problems controlling their weight, tending to put on weight, lose it and gain it again quite regularly.

This so-called weight-cycling can also lead to heart disease.

The researchers said the reasons for these differences were unclear.

However, previous studies have found that in addition to being less concerned about their weight, lesbians are also less likely to perceive themselves as overweight.

Dr Roberts said the findings highlighted the need for health education which targeted lesbians specifically.

"Weight control is often perceived as a conventionally feminine behaviour," she said.

"A strategy that de-emphasises traditional feminine values may be the most effective for lesbians."

The study is published in the journal Women's Health Issues.




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