What You Need to Know About Waist Measurement and Lifespan

As it turns out, waist measurement is actually a better predictor of longevity than the famous body mass index (BMI).

What You Need to Know About Waist Measurement and Lifespan

If you think your waist measurement is only important for determining your clothing size, think again. While it may be shocking, researchers have found that your waist measurement can actually predict how long you live. Here's what you need to know about waist measurement and lifespan.

What's in a number anyway - especially your waist measurement? Just another measuring stick by which to judge ourselves with? We'd all probably rather ignore it, because knowing your waist circumference is too high either makes you feel self-conscience - or, let's face it - fat. However, when you take your waist measurement and remove the vanity lens - you can actually get a picture of how long you will live. This isn't about aesthetics and beauty anymore. This is about your lifespan. And if your waist measurement is too high, you might die sooner than if your waist measurement was normal.

And as it turns out, waist measurement is actually a better predictor of longevity than the famous body mass index (BMI).

To state it another way - if your waist measurement is too high, it means that you might be shortening your life. How large is too large? What you need to know about waist measurement and lifespan.

For women, a waist circumference above 35 inches is the point where you become at risk for all kinds of metabolic diseases, such as poly-cystic ovarian syndrome, and high blood pressure. And since your waist measurement can help predict how long you will live, having a waist to height ratio that is too high can give you an idea of just how many years of life you might lose.

For men, having a waist measurement larger than 45 inches means you are losing years of your life. But what if you are tall or big-boned…does that give you more leeway?

As it turns out - yes. And here's how to incorporate your specific body type and take into account your waist measurement. Researchers in Britain showed that waist-to-height ratio is a better predictor of mortality, or your risk of dying, than body mass index, or BMI [1]. They were actually able to quantify, on average, how many years of life people lost when their waist measurement was too high by comparing them to individuals with normal waist measurements.

To calculate your waist to height ratio - just take your waist measurement in inches, and divide it by your height in inches. You'll wind up with a decimal number. Then compare it to the graph below to find out how many years of life are lost by having a waist to height ratio that's too high.

Waist measurement can also help predict whether or not you will get diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and develop an abnormal blood lipid profile - also known as dyslipidemia. Physicians across the country know the connection between belly fat and disease, and the connection is very strong.

It's a good idea to know where you stand. Here's how you can take your waist measurement in a snap.

In order to take your waist measurement, use a non-stretchy measuring tape, and place it about 2 inches above your navel, making sure it is even on all sides. Find the point where the beginning of the tape meets the distant part of the tape, and take your measurement as you exhale. It might be easier to have a friend help you with this. While you are at it, measure your height as well, and then find where you fall on the graph. If you are losing many years of life, you will definitely want to take action to start shrinking your waist measurement.

One of the best ways to shrink your waist measurement is to follow a portion-controlled diet, with adequate amounts of protein and lots of healthy, nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. We also think that you should enjoy the food you are eating, which is how BistroMD, offering gourmet diet meals delivered, was born.

In summary, waist to height ratio can predict years of life lost - better than BMI. And in general, researchers in Britain recommend keeping your waist circumference to less than half your height, in inches, to help you add years to your life.



1. Ashwell M, Mayhew L, Richardson J, Rickayzen B. Waist-to-height ratio is more predictive of years of life lost than body mass index. PLoS One. 2014 Sep 8;9(9):e103483.eCollection 2014. PMID: 25198730

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