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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Does Waist Size Affect Your Heart?

Waist Circumference Even Better Than BMI at Predicting Heart Risk
WebMD Health News

Sept. 19, 2002 - Have you measured your waist lately? How big around you are may determine your risk of heart disease.

Researchers wanted to find out if waist circumference is a more accurate measurement than BMI (body mass index) in determining the risk of heart attack or stroke. They found that it is. BMI -- a measure of weight in relation to height -- is currently considered one of the best ways to tell if someone is overweight.

Their study, from the New York Obesity Research Center, is reported in the Sept. 19 edition of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The researchers also determined waist size limits for heart disease risk:

  • To minimize the risk of heart disease, men with 35-inch waists and women with 33-inch waists should not gain any more weight.
  • To reduce their heart-disease risk, men whose waists are at least 39 inches and women whose waists are at least 37 inches should lose weight.

The researchers compared heart disease risk factors with waist sizes and BMIs in more than 9,000 middle-aged white men and women.

They found that waist circumference is more closely related to well-known risk factors for heart disease -- such as excess weight, high cholesterol level, and high blood pressure -- than BMI is. The advantage, they say, is that waist measurement takes into account how fat is distributed differently in different people, and BMI does not. Previous studies have shown that having a lot of fat in the abdominal area -- as opposed to the hip area -- increases the risk of heart disease.

The researchers say their results apply to almost all white adults aged 20-90, but adults of other races should also be studied to determine their waist size limits.

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