Waist size linked to death risk regardless of BMI: study

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Rochester, MN – Having a large waist – even if you have a healthy body mass index – may increase your risk of premature death from heart disease, respiratory problems and cancer, according to a new study from the Mayo Clinic.

Researchers analyzed data from 11 cohort studies involving 650,386 adults and found a strong association between waist circumference and death when adjustments were made for age, smoking status, alcohol use and physical activity.

Men with a waist circumference larger than 43 inches had a 50 percent higher risk of death than men whose waist was smaller than 35 inches. For women, a waist circumference of 37 inches or larger was associated with an 80 percent higher risk of death compared to women whose waist was 27 inches or smaller. In terms of life expectancy, that shaved about three years off for men and five years for women after age 40.

The higher mortality risk was found at all levels of BMI.

Researchers suggested people make exercise and diet changes to help lose inches in their midsection.

The study was published in the March issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings.