Well & Good
Tighten your belts and put down the cheeseburger because new research says an increased waist size could shorten your lifespan.
Those who hold fat around their middle, otherwise identified as having an 'apple' shaped figure, could be more at risk than others who carry weight lower down.
This is due to the fact that fat accumulating in the midsection near organs is linked in general to greater risk for heart disease and stroke.
Measuring the ratio of waist to height is a better way of predicting life expectancy than body mass index (BMI), the method widely used by doctors when judging overall health and risk of disease, experts said.
BMI is calculated by dividing a person's weight by the square of their height in metres, but a study found that the simpler measurement of waistline to height produced a more accurate prediction.
According to researchers from Oxford Brookes University, keeping your waist circumference less than half of your height can help prevent the onset of conditions like stroke, heart disease and diabetes and add years to life.
A man 5'10" (177.8 cm) tall should have a waistline of no more than 89 cms, while a woman 5'4" tall (162.5 cms) should be no more than 81 cms at the waistline.
This conclusion was drawn from a study conducted by Oxford Brookes University that measured the BMI and waist to height ratio of patients in the 1980s.
Twenty years later, death rates among the group were much more closely linked to the participants' earlier waist to height ratio than their BMI, suggesting it is a more useful tool for identifying health risks at an early stage.
Dr Margaret Ashwell, who led the study, has been an advocate for rejecting BMI as a health measurement, in favour of the waist to height ratio for a few years.
"If you are measuring waist-to-height ratio you are getting a much earlier prediction that something is going wrong, and then you can do something about it," she said.
Children in particular could be screened as early as five using the waist to height ratio to identify those at greatest risk of obesity and serious health conditions later in life, it was claimed.
"We have got increasing evidence that this works very well with children as well, because whilst they grow up their waist is growing but their height is also."
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