Waist Size Indicates Heart Risk
Large Waistlines Raise Risk of Dying From Heart Disease, Stroke
Nov. 15, 2005 (Dallas) -- Get out your tape measure! Your waist size can
offer valuable information about your risk of dying of heart disease or stroke
in the next decade -- beyond that provided by traditional risk factors such as
LDL cholesterol or whether you smoke, researchers report.
In a study of more than 33,000 men, every 2-inch increase in waist size
raised the risk of dying of cardiovascular disease by up to 17% over the next
10 years, independent of other risk factors.
"Knowing your waist circumference can enhance cardiovascular disease
prediction," says researcher Radim Jurca, PhD, an exercise physiologist at
the Cooper Institute in Dallas.
Doctors who heard the results at the annual meeting of the American Heart
Association (AHA) agree. Nieca Goldberg, MD, an AHA spokeswoman and heart
specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, says she routinely measures her
"But you can start by doing it at home and bringing the measurements
into your doctor," she tells WebMD. "All you need is a tape
Waist Size vs. Traditional Risk Assessment
The researchers studied 33,193 men who came to the Cooper Institute for
heart-health checkups between 1979 and 2003.
Based on a traditional risk-assessment tool called the Framingham Risk Score
that takes into account age, cholesterol, blood pressure, the presence of
diabetes, and smoking status, the men were classified as having a low (less
than a 10%), an intermediate (10% to 20%), or high (greater than 20%) risk of
dying of heart disease over the next 10 years.
Then, depending on their waist size, they were divided into three groups:
below 36 inches, 36 to 38 inches, or over 38 inches.
Over the next 10 years, 624 of the men died of heart disease and stroke.
"No matter which Framingham category a man was in at the start of the
study, waist circumference enhanced its predictive value," Jurca says.
For example, people who were considered at low risk of dying based on the
Framingham score alone actually faced a 12% increased risk if their waist
circumference was over 39 inches. People who were at intermediate risk based on
a Framingham score were at 24% increased risk of dying if their waist size
bulged over 39 inches.
Men and women with abdominal obesity -- defined as men with waistlines over
40 inches and women with waistlines over 35 inches -- may already be on the
road to diabetes or heart disease.
But many studies, including this one, suggest those values may be too high,
Goldberg says. "In this case, less is better."