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What Your Waist Tells about Your Health

By Alex Barkan, MD FACS


We all know that obesity is an epidemic in the United States and that it has progressed worldwide. It carries with it additional health risks such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obstructive sleep apnea. The culmination of the symptoms is described as metabolic syndrome X.


The five risk factors include:

- increased blood pressure (greater than 130/85)

- high blood sugar levels (insulin resistance)

- excess fat around the waist

- high triglyceride levels

- low levels of good cholesterol, or HDL


Having one of these risk factors does not mean that you have metabolic syndrome. However, having one of these risk factors will increase your chances of developing cardiovascular diseases. Having three or more of the above risk factors will qualify you with the diagnosis of metabolic syndrome.


There are over 400,000 deaths per year in the United States that can be attributed to weight related medical problems. Patients with elevated BMI’s and high waist circumference need to be aware that they are at risk for developing a significant comorbid condition that is related to their weight.


The most sensitive of these findings is waist circumference. A waist circumference greater than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men is associated with an increased risk of cardiac disease. To correctly measure your waist, stand and place a tape measure around your middle, just above your hipbones. Measure your waist just after you breathe out.


The best option for avoiding or treating this comorbid condition is a sustained weight loss either through a medical or surgical weight loss program. Surgical weight loss offers a patient a new chance at health when old methods have not previously been successful. Patients are likely to lose 50-65% of their excess weight and maintain it for over 5 years. They are able to eradicate many of the comorbid conditions that have haunted them for years and prevented them from living the lives that they have wanted for so long.