Related Topics: Diet, Features, Heart Disease, Weight Loss

Is a Large Waistline Really Unhealthy?

New research shows you the most healthy waist size, but if you are struggling with menopausal weight gain make sure you tackle hormone imbalance as well as your diet.

Dr Andrew Weil

If you are a woman with a waistline of more than 35 inches, you may be facing increased risks of health problems. For nine years, researchers followed the weight and waists of over 100,000 men and women age 50 or older. The consequence of having a larger waistline wasn’t promising: over the course of a decade, those with the biggest waists were twice as likely to die from heart disease, cancer and respiratory disorders as those whose waists were slimmest. This held true even for the participants who did not gain weight, but whose body shape shifted to a larger waistline.

The increase in risk may be due to the characteristics of abdominal fat; studies have shown that it secretes proteins and hormones that contribute to inflammation, raise cholesterol levels and interfere with the way the body processes insulin.

What is ideal?
The researchers suggest aiming for the ideal waist size of 40 inches or less for men, and 35 inches or less for women. Better than following your waist size may be assessing how much of your weight is fat versus lean mass. Try to seek out a local gym or health center to assess this via calipers, or more accurate means such as a high-quality body fat analyzer.

If you follow my anti-inflammatory diet, like the one in the Healthy Aging online plan, and make it a point to participate in regular, moderate exercise such as walking, you can help keep your waistline – and overall body weight – in check.

More information
Weight gain may be inevitable at menopause due to our changing hormonal balance and as the body compensates for lost oestrogen from the ovaries by switching production to the fat cells of the stomach, abdomen and thighs. However even with a good diet and exercise, if you are oestrogen dominant, as many women are, then rebalancing your hormones will also make a difference as progesterone is a natural diuretic and helps with fluid retention.

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