The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Dr. Jeffrey H. Toney Headshot

The 35-Inch Waistline Survival Test

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

As Chileans and the world wait for the miners' safe recovery, this startling reminder of the importance of one's waistline is an opportunity to review the health risks of our increasing girth.

Having followed the story of the Chilean miners since the beginning, I would like to share this reflection about the importance of our waistlines as predictors of our health.

Originally published on NJ Voices

Imagine if you had to pass this simple test: If your waistline is equal to or less than 35 inches, you could lead a healthy life; if not, you must begin a regime to trim down, because the clock is ticking.

Given all of the health risks associated with our waistlines, 35 inches may not be an unreasonable limit, but this is the reality that the trapped miners in Chile must face because of the dimensions of the escape tunnel that is under construction. Thankfully, from news reports, it doesn't seem this will be a major problem for them.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the average waistline is 40 inches for men and is 37 inches for women, so more than 50 percent of Americans would fail the 35-inch survival test. CDC scientists concluded that abdominal obesity has “increased continuously during the past 15 years”.

Visceral fat, especially the fat around our middle, is associated with a host of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, asthma, breast cancer and colorectal cancer.

Below is a snapshot of some of these risks: (source: Harvard Health Publications)

• An increase of two inches to a healthy woman’s waist size is estimated to increase the risk for cardiovascular disease by 10 percent.
• More than 80 percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese.
• Your risk for dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, could triple with high levels of abdominal fat.
• Even with normal body weight, your risk for asthma could increase by almost 40 percent if your waist exceeds 35 inches (for women).
• Risks for both breast cancer and colorectal cancer increase with higher levels of abdominal fat; colorectal cancer risks can triple.

When I heard this story, I thought if it were not for my inclination to overindulge every now and then, to enjoying dessert after dinner, I would be in that 35 inch or less club, but I am not. I would fail this test, even if by less than one inch ... OK, an inch -- well, I am working on it -- really. Better get to those sit-ups!

Let us all give our thoughts, and if you're so inclined, prayers, for the safe recovery of the Chilean miners.