Your Health

For Longer Life, Keep Your Waist Trim

Tape measure at waist

A simple waist measurement could give you a pretty good idea of your mortality risk. iStockphoto.com hide caption

itoggle caption iStockphoto.com

If you want an idea of how long you'll live, take a good hard look at your waistline the next time you're in front of a mirror.

Researchers from the American Cancer Society say people with large waists have twice the risk of death compared to those with small waists. The researchers defined large waists as more than 47 inches for men and greater than 42 inches for the ladies.

The results held up even for those who had a normal weight for their height. The findings were just published online by the Archives of Internal Medicine.

What's going on? Extra inches at the waist mean more fat tissue deep in the abdomen, explains lead author Eric J. Jacobs.

Previous research has shown that fat in the abdomen doubled a person's risk of death from many causes, including cancer, stroke and heart disease. A big waistline is a better indicator of health risks than body mass index (BMI), the usual measure for obesity, according to some research.

The recent study followed thousands of men and women for nine years, but had a few shortcomings. All of the people were 50 or older, and nearly all were white.

Jacobs says there's no reason to expect radically different results in other ethnicities and that researchers have shown similar results in younger people. His advice: "Watch your waist as well as your weight."

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