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What Your Waist Says About Your Health

Are you apple- or pear-shaped? Carrying extra weight around the middle can increase your risk for heart disease — the number one cause of death among women ages 20 and older.

Results from the Nurses’ Health Study, which collected data from more than 40,000 women ages 40 to 65, found that those with waist measurements of 38 inches or greater were three times as likely to die of heart disease than women who had waist measurements of 28 inches. Figuring your waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) — dividing your waist measurement by your hip measurement — is another way to determine if you are at risk.

“A WHR greater than .85 defines abdominal obesity,” says Stacy C. Butler, M.D., OB/GYN on the medical staff at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital
Southwest Fort Worth. “Women who are apple-shaped or who have central obesity have a higher risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Taking care of your body now contributes to better health and longevity as you age.”

Regardless of where you carry your fat, obesity is a risk factor for heart disease. Use the body mass index (BMI) to help you determine your relative health by dividing your weight by your height in inches squared and multiplying the result by 703. A BMI of 25.0 to 29.9 is considered overweight, and a BMI of 30 and greater is considered obese.

Improvement in overall health can be accomplished with both lifestyle modifications and regular physical activity. Fad diets are not recommended. Talk to your health care provider about your personal risk and ways to improve your numbers safely.

“For women struggling with their weight, be diligent and don’t let it go,” says Michael Glover, D.O., OB/GYN on the medical staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Kaufman. “Quitting smoking if you do smoke is also important. Smoking in combination with central obesity compounds the associated health risks.”

Find more women’s health tips and tools to help assess your health at TexasHealth.org/Women. The site offers a Women’s Health Assessment and health information for all the seasons of your life.

(Summer 2012)

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