Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

Waist Size Predicts Heart Disease Risk Better

Belly Fat More Important Measure Than Total Body Fat
WebMD Health News

Feb. 9, 2005 -- Your waistline is a window to your heart's health. Waist size is a better predictor of heart disease than total body fat, new research shows.

It probably won't shock you to learn that larger waists mean greater heart disease risk. It's no secret that being out of shape is a major risk factor for heart disease.

Now, scientists have pinpointed the exact numbers to watch out for.

Using a tape measure is easier than calculating your body mass index (BMI), and it's also better at assessing heart disease risk, say the researchers in February's American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Body mass index is based on your height and weight. It's an indirect measure of total body fat. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is overweight, and a BMI of 30 or higher is obese. Those are the danger zones that can indicate greater heart disease risk.

Data came from more than 10,000 people participating in a national survey.

The researchers, including the Medical College of Wisconsin's Shankuan Zhu, MD, PhD, didn't just check participants' weight and height. They also looked at waist measurements, blood sugar, high blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.

Waist Size Better Than BMI

The researchers found that waist size correlated better than BMI with risk factors for heart disease -- high blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol.

For example, waist size was a better predictor of a person's blood pressure than BMI.

In 2002, a study in the same journal also favored the easily measured waist size over BMI for predicting risk of heart disease.

Men should strive for a waist size of 35 inches or under and women 33 inches or under. This correlates to a normal BMI of under 25 -- and a lower risk of heart disease.

Apple or Pear Shape?

Lots of Americans are overweight. According to the CDC, 15 states had adult obesity rates of 15%-19% in 2003. Another 31 states had rates of 20%-24%, and in four states more than a quarter of the population was obese.

Where the extra pounds lie may make a difference. Larger waists, or an "apple" shape, indicate abdominal fat. Fat around the hips and thighs is often described as a "pear" shape. Studies have linked abdominal fat to more health problems, including increased risk of diabetes and breast cancer.

Either way, following a safe, sensible nutrition and exercise program can get you back on track. Experts, including doctors, fitness trainers, and therapists, can help. With a healthy, long-term approach, your waist will shrink -- and your heart will thank you.

Today on WebMD

x-ray of human heart
A visual guide.
atrial fibrillation
Symptoms and causes.
heart rate graph
10 things to never do.
heart rate
Get the facts.
empty football helmet
red wine
eating blueberries
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Inside A Heart Attack
Omega 3 Sources
Salt Shockers
lowering blood pressure