Is it true that waist size can be a predictor of life expectancy?

Answer From Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

Research has found that adults with a large waist size (circumference) are at greater risk of premature death than are those with a normal waist size.

In fact, a study that looked at data from 650,000 adults found an estimated decrease in life expectancy for the highest versus lowest waist circumference of approximately three years for men and five years for women. This effect was independent of other risk factors, such as age, body mass index (BMI), physical activity, smoking history and alcohol use.

Specifically this data showed that men with a waist circumference of 43 inches (110 centimeters) had more than a 50 percent greater risk of death than did men with a 37-inch (94-centimeter) waist.

For women, those with a 37-inch (94centimeter) waist had an 80 percent higher risk of death than did women with a 27.5-inch (70-centimeter) waist.

A large waist circumference is a red flag for excessive abdominal fat, which is associated with obesity-related conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.

Do you know your waist circumference? Here's how to measure it:

  • Locate your hipbone on your abdomen.
  • Wrap a measuring tape around your body at this level. It should be snug but not pressing into your bare skin.
  • The tape should be parallel to the floor. Relax, exhale and read the measurement.

If you don't like the number, take heart. Being physically active, eating well and watching portions can make a positive impact on your waist and overall health. Discuss your health risks and goals with your doctor.

Get the latest health advice from Mayo Clinic delivered to your inbox.

Sign up for free, and stay up-to-date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expert advice on managing your health.

To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information and to understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your e-mail and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic Patient, this could include Protected Health Information (PHI). If we combine this information with your PHI, we will treat all of that information as PHI, and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of e-mail communications at any time by clicking on the Unsubscribe link in the e-mail.

Aug. 26, 2020 See more Expert Answers