There is increasing evidence that excess abdominal fat is a risk factor for long–term conditions like diabetes and heart disease. However, a recent study from Harvard and the National Institutes of Health published in the journal Circulation links abdominal obesity and women’s risk of premature death.
As per the study, women who carry excess fat around their waists are at greater risk of dying early from cancer or heart disease than women with smaller waistlines, even if they were of normal weight.
In the study researchers followed more than 44,000 nurses over the course of 16 years to track their medical history and lifestyle. At the beginning of the study the women were asked to measure their waists and hips. Every two years, the women completed questionnaires about their health, providing information about their age, activity level, smoking status, diet, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
They examined the cause of death for all women who died over the course of the study. In total, 3,507 deaths occurred. Of these, 1,748 were due to cancer and 751 were due to heart disease. They discovered that women with greater waist circumferences were more likely to die prematurely, particularly from heart disease, when compared to women with smaller waists. For example, women with waist size equal to or greater than 35 inches were approximately twice as likely to die of heart disease as were women with a waist size less than 28 inches, regardless of their body mass index.
Similarly, women with a waist size equal to or greater than 35 inches also were twice as likely to die of cancer as were women with a waist size less than 28 inches. Women who had a greater waist circumference and were also obese were at the greatest risk of premature death. Greater waist circumference is a sign of collecting excess fat around one’s midsection, called abdominal obesity. A healthy waist limit for women is 80 cm and for men is 85 cm. Waist circumference is determined by measuring around the waist at the navel line.