Eric J Jacobs, PhD, and colleagues studied the waist size/mortality risks among 48,500 men (average age 69) and 56,343 women (average age 67) who had participated in the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort.
Over 14 years of follow-up study, 9,315 of the men and 5,332 of the women died.
Very large waists (47+ inches in men and 42+ inches in women) were linked to about twice the likelihood of dying during the study period, regardless of body mass index (BMI).
For men whose BMI was normal, an additional 3.9 inches of waistline boosted the likelihood of dying by 16% compared to men with the same BMI but smaller waists.
The association was even stronger for normal-BMI women, for whom an additional 3.9 inches in the waistline increased mortality by 25%.
Jacobs and colleagues concluded, “Regardless of weight, avoiding gains in waist circumference may reduce risk of premature mortality. Even if you haven’t had a noticeable weight gain, if you notice your waist size increasing, that’s an important sign. It’s time to eat better and start exercising more.”
Patients are considered “abdominally obese” if their waist measures 34.6+ inches for women and 40.1+ inches for men. In the US, more than half of men and 70% of women ages 50-79 have waistlines larger than the above.
To check yourself, measure around your waist at the navel with a tape measure–without sucking in your gut.
Sources: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, March 25, 2013