Older women with more body fat around the middle (apple-shaped), are up to three times more likely to suffer from a stroke than those with fat around the thighs (pear-shaped), research finds.

A study published in the European Heart Journal on 30 June 2019, has found that storing a greater proportion of body fat in the legs was linked to a significantly decreased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease (CVD) in postmenopausal women – even if they are of a normal weight.

Research carried out by New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine studied 2,683 postmenopausal women, aged 59-70 years-old, all with a normal body mass index (18.5 to less than 25 kg/m2).

During an average period of 18 years, 105 cases of stroke occurred.

Researchers found that women in the top 25 per cent of those who stored most fat round their middle or trunk had nearly double the risk of heart problems and stroke when compared to those in the 25 per cent of women with the least fat stored around their middle.

In contrast, the top 25 per cent of those with the greatest proportion of fat stored in their legs had a 40 per cent lower risk of stroke and CVD compared with women who stored the least fat in their legs.

Participants who had both higher percentages of waist fat and lower percentages of leg fat had more than three-fold increased risk compared to those with the opposite fat distribution.