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What Waist Size Tells Us About Our Hearts?

woman measuring the size of her waist with a yellow measuring tape

You’ve heard it repeatedly. Lose weight to improve your heart health. And to be sure, excess weight and obesity are major causes of metabolic disorders like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and type-2 diabetes. These conditions can, individually or together, lead to significant cardiovascular consequences like atherosclerosis and heart attack. However, the measure we use for obesity, the Body Mass Index or BMI, is an antiquated measure that doesn’t consider several physical traits that can make a big difference in whether someone would be considered overweight or obese.

For example, the BMI does not account for gender, muscle tone, body frame, and more. As such, you may find that a bodybuilder would be considered obese if they only use the BMI as a guide. Conversely, someone at high risk for heart disease may have a very normal BMI.

That said, we are learning more about risk factors and markers that contribute to cardiovascular disease. One such marker, and a very reliable one, is waist size. Recent research has shown that waist size, independent of BMI, is a reliable predictor of the risk of heart disease. A good rule of thumb is that women with a waist size greater than 35 and men with a waist size over 40 inches are at high risk of cardiovascular disease.

It doesn’t end there…

Patients with significant visceral fat – excess fat around the abdomen, also have a high risk of cardiovascular disease. This is regardless of their weight and BMI. Patients with higher BMIs (classified as overweight or obese) but with less visceral fat around the abdomen seem to have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. It seems counterintuitive, but where your fat sits versus how much of it you have is important to stratify the risk of heart disease!

What Does This Mean for You?

You may use your weight and BMI reading to determine whether you should visit a cardiologist for longer-term heart disease risk. While weight is undoubtedly a factor, as are genetics and family history, you should also consider your waist size when deciding if you need to visit your cardiologist for screening. It is essential to speak to your medical team and primary care physician to understand more about what factors influence your risk of heart disease and what kind of screening schedule you should pursue. Doing so may catch heart disease when it is still eminently treatable at its earliest stages. Of course, all of us at The Heart House are here to help, and we look forward to scheduling a consultation with one of our cardiologists to get the process started.

In the meantime, keep following the tried-and-true advice of losing excess weight by improving your lifestyle with proper diet and exercise. Doing so is the most reliable way to improve overall cardiovascular health.

September 9, 2020 The Heart House is Proud to be recognized in SJ Magazine’s 2020 Top Docs

The team at The Heart House is pleased to announce our providers have been recognized by SJ Magazine in their […]

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