Rarely do doctors measure waistlines as part of a routine physical, yet a bulging middle indicates an increased risk of a premature death. Even if you are not overweight, this one measurement is linked to early death in both men and women.
A European study of 360,000 subjects and spanning close to 10 years showed a relationship between excess waistline fat (known as visceral fat) and potentially fatal, chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes.
Body mass index (BMI), a general ratio of weight to height, has commonly been used in studies investigating the link between body fat and the risk of premature death. This study, however, went a step farther by considering how fat is distributed in the body and the correlating impact on lifespan.
The study concluded that the risk for heart disease and diabetes begins to increase at a reading of 37 inches for men. For women, the risk increases at 35 inches. With every 5 cm (almost 2 inches) measurement above these numbers, the mortality risk increased by 17 percent in men and 13 percent in women.
According to a Harvard School of Public Health study of close to 45,000 women, excessive visceral fat takes a mighty toll on the heart, tripling the risk of fatal heart attack.
According to the National Institutes of Health, to accurately measure your waistline, wrap a soft tape measure around your bare waist, then move it down until the bottom of the tape measure touches the top of your hip bones. When doing this, do not hold your breath or pull the tape measure in tightly.
The good news is that visceral fat can be reduced by the timeless standards: exercise and a diet rich in produce, fish, grains and monosaturated fats (the kind found in nuts and olive oil.)