An even bigger problem than squeezing into your pants is that it’s bad for your health. Really, really bad. Even if your body mass index (or BMI) is in the healthy range, a big belly significantly increases your risk of dying at a younger age from such illnesses as heart disease, respiratory problems and cancer — even after accounting for smoking, alcohol use and physical activity, according to researchers from the Mayo Clinic. So get out a tape measure. Here are the important waist measurements:
- Men with waists 43 inches or greater in circumference have a 50 percent higher mortality risk than men with waists less than 35 inches, and this translates to about a three-year lower life expectancy after age 40.
- Women with a waist circumference of 37 inches or greater have about an 80 percent higher mortality risk than women with a waist circumference of 27 inches or less, and this translates to about a five-year lower life expectancy after age 40.
- Risk increases in a linear fashion. That means, for every two inches of greater waist circumference, mortality risk increases about 7 percent in men and about 9 percent in women.
And your BMI doesn’t really matter. The Mayo researchers found that there is a higher mortality risk with an increasing waist circumference at all BMI levels, even among people who have normal BMI levels. (BMI is a measure of weight in relation to height.) What can you do? Trim your waist measurement through diet and exercise. Even an inch or two could have a meaningful effect on your longevity.