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Obesity in African-American Women Boosts Risk of Death

Study Shows Risk of Death Increases With Increase in Body Mass Index

Waist Size and Health Risks

Next, the researchers focused on the non-obese women. They compared those with large waists (above 35 inches) and those with smaller waists.

"The women in the largest group -- 35 inches or higher -- had a 50% increased risk of dying compared with those not obese with a waist circumference less than 35 inches," Palmer says.

The waist size reflects the amount of abdominal fat. Fat inside of the abdomen that surrounds organs is considered more metabolically active. Too much of this type of fat is considered hazardous to long-term health.

In obese women, she says, they found no effect of waist circumference. She suspects that the amount of fat they have, wherever distributed, is enough to be hazardous.

Obesity Task Force

The National Medical Association, composed of African-American doctors, is aware of the problem. It launched an obesity task force earlier this year, according to Cedric M. Bright, MD, the association's president.

"African-American women have the highest rates of obesity and this directly correlates to other [coexisting] conditions like diabetes, hypertension, certain cancers, heart attacks and strokes," he says in a statement. "Unfortunately, the epidemic of obesity in women is often passed on to their children and families."

The task force is bringing together doctors, surgeons, nutrition experts, and fitness experts who are helping to shape an action plan, Bright says. It will develop a comprehensive approach to combating obesity in African-Americans.

According to the National Medical Association, African-Americans, especially women, are 1.5 times as likely to be obese as non-Hispanic whites.

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