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Risk of Mortality Increases with Waist Size

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, August 25, 2010

No matter what a patient's body mass index (BMI) or weight, his or her risk of dying for any reason after the 50th birthday greatly increases if waist circumference is abnormally high, 88 cm (34.64 inches) in women or 102 cm (40.16 inches) inches in men.  That holds especially true for women.

That's the finding of research published this month by researchers for the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, who suggest that clinicians and policymakers might revisit their guidelines that define who is overweight in America.  The authors say they believe their study is the first to scrutinize the link between waist circumference and mortality in each of three standard categories of BMI: normal, overweight and obese."

"In our study, waist circumference was positively associated with risk of mortality among individuals within all (three) categories of BMI examined," they wrote.  "The relative risks associated with a 10-cm increase in waist circumference ranged from approximately 15% to 25% within various categories of BMI, with the strongest association observed among women in the normal BMI category."

The authors suggest that clinicians evaluate waist circumference even in patients who are not overweight. "Currently available clinical guidelines from the National Institutes of Health are based on evidence from the 19990s (which) recommend that waist circumference be used to identify increased disease risk only among individuals in the overweight and obese categories of BMI (greater or equal to 30)," they wrote.

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