Waist size may be a predictor of life expectancy

Research has found that adults with a large waist size (circumference) are at greater risk of premature death than are those with a normal waist size.

In fact, a study that looked at data from 650,000 adults found an estimated decrease in life expectancy for the highest versus lowest waist circumference of approximately three years for men and five years for women. This effect was independent of other risk factors, such as age, body mass index (BMI), physical activity, smoking history and alcohol use.

Specifically this data showed that men with a waist circumference of 43 inches (110 centimeters) had more than a 50 percent greater risk of death than did men with a 37-inch (94-centimeter) waist.

For women, those with a 37-inch (94centimeter) waist had an 80 percent higher risk of death than did women with a 27.5-inch (70-centimeter) waist.

A large waist circumference is a red flag for excessive abdominal fat, which is associated with obesity-related conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.

Do you know your waist circumference? Here's how to measure it:

  • Locate your hipbone on your abdomen.
  • Wrap a measuring tape around your body at this level. It should be snug but not pressing into your bare skin.
  • The tape should be parallel to the floor. Relax, exhale and read the measurement.

If you don't like the number, take heart. Being physically active, eating well and watching portions can make a positive impact on your waist and overall health. Discuss your health risks and goals with your doctor.

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