Your Waistline Could Put You At Risk For Disease

136515011I doubt if anyone would argue that the health issues surrounding weight and obesity are the most compelling and demanding of our time.

The concept of body mass index (BMI) – the measurement of body fat based on height and weight – is considered a tool for evaluation to determine health risks related to your weight. Health researchers and policy experts say BMI is accurate and important for determining the risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, stroke, dementia and premature death.

Diet and lifestyle, that factor into our BMI, have a profound impact on much more than our weight.

Is Your Weight Bringing You Down? Get Out The Tape Measure

While BMI traditionally is calculated using measurements from your weight and your height, there may be a better way to determine your weight-related health risks! Simply measure the circumference of your waist with a tape measure around your navel. Research has shown that this measurement, even used alone, is an accurate independent risk assessment tool which is easy and quick to take. Unlike your body weight, your waist circumference can almost never be misleading.

Waist circumference indicates the degree of accumulation of abdominal body fat. When this measurement gets larger, your degree of “central obesity” also increases – this is where the trouble begins. Diets high in calories, sugar, refined carbohydrates such as breads, pasta, white rice, desserts, soda, candy and snack foods rapidly increase blood sugar and blood insulin levels.

Empty Carbohydrates Can Lead To Insulin Resistance

Why is this so bad for us? When your digestive system breaks food down into glucose, it circulates in your blood stream. The pancreas releases surges of insulin to take the glucose from the blood to the cells, where it’s used for energy.

But when you eat highly processed, refined carbs, your pancreas releases excess insulin. Do this on a regular basis and soon your blood has an excess of insulin, and your cells develop a resistance to insulin. When the glucose can’t get into the cells for energy, it turns into fat cells and gets deposited as fat reserves around the waist.

Increasing waist circumference is directly associated with the degree of insulin resistance, risk factors for pre-diabetes and high levels of inflammation commonly associated with the development of heart disease. New research has even suggested that waist circumference is a risk factor for premature death!

A recent comprehensive study looked at 11 studies on waist circumference and mortality, involving more than 650,000 adults. Higher waist circumference was associated with a greater risk of dying regardless of the subjects’ BMI. The data was controlled for other factors like levels of physical activity, demographic characteristics, lifestyle dynamics and BMI.

This new analysis found that for every two-inch increase in waist circumference, there was an increased risk of death from seven to nine percent!

Daily Habits Affect Belly Fat: Take Action!

The underlying cause? There is a direct relationship between what we eat and how much exercise we get relative to our waist size. The more we partake in this type of lifestyle, the greater degree of insulin resistance we will develop, and the larger our waists will subsequently become. Insulin resistance is also associated with higher blood pressure, higher cholesterol, higher triglycerides and higher incidence of inflammation, all of which can cause artery damage and premature death.

If you are a male with a waist circumference approaching 40 inches, or a female with a measurement of 37 to 38 inches, you are in a high risk category. Changes to your lifestyle should seriously be considered for the good of your health. Take out that tape measure, take note, and then take action!

O’Riordan, M. “Big Waists Linked with Early Death Regardless of BMI.” Website, Last accessed, April 14/14.
Cerhan, J. “A Pooled Analysis of Waist Circumference and Mortality in 650,000 Adults.” Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Volume 89, Issue 3 , Pages 335-345, March 2014.