New York: Postmenopausal women, who have pear-shaped bodies are healthier than those with apple-shaped bodies. A study has found that they are at lesser risk of heart and blood vessel problems.

Storing a greater proportion of body fat in the legs (pear-shaped) was linked to a significantly decreased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in these women, the study, published in the European Heart Journal stated.

"Our findings suggest that postmenopausal women, despite having normal weight, could have varying risk of cardiovascular disease because of different fat distributions around either their middle or their legs," said Dr Qibin Qi, who works at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the US.

"In addition to overall body weight control, people may also need to pay attention to their regional body fat, even those who have a healthy body weight and normal BMI," he said.

The study involved 2,683 women who were part of the Women's Health Initiative in the US, which recruited nearly 1,62,000 postmenopausal women between 1993 and 1998 and followed them until February 2017.

The researchers found that women in the top 25% of those who stored most fat round their middle or trunk (apple-shaped) had nearly double the risk of heart problems and stroke when compared to the 25% of women with the least fat stored around their middle.

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

The researchers found that the highest risk of CVD occurred in women who had the highest percentage of fat around their middle and the lowest percentage of leg fat - they had a more than three-fold increased risk compared to women at the opposite extreme with the least body fat and the most leg fat.

When women reach the menopause, they can undergo changes in their body shape and metabolism; more fat may be stored around the organs in the body rather than underneath the skin.

In addition, the distribution of body fat is determined by both genetics and exposure to environmental factors, such as diet and exercise.