Women’s waist size predictive of heart disease

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters

When you stand naked in front of your full-length mirror, do you see one of those pear-shaped bodies, with weight accumulating around your hips and thighs?  Or perhaps you see an apple-shaped body, in which most of your excess weight settles around your waistline?  (If you see a tall, lithe Wonder Woman/supermodel-shaped body staring back at you in your mirror, you can just stop reading…)  

Turns out that the apple-shaped body type may be the most dangerous for your heart health.  According to Mayo Clinic cardiologists, there are two kinds of abdominal fat deposits that we need to worry about.

Subcutaneous fat is the fat you can feel if you pinch some skin and tissue around your middle. But belly fat (visceral fat) accumulates in your abdomen in the spaces between your organs. This belly or visceral fat surrounding major organs can be a serious health issue. Too much belly fat puts you at greater risk of heart disease, breast cancer and diabetes compared to excess subcutaneous fat.  For an eye-popping look at what this belly fat is actually like, consider this MRI of two women from National Geographic.

One tool that has often been used to tell if you are overweight or obese is the Body Mass Index, which is a calculation based on a ratio of your height and weight, used in people age 18 to 65 who are not pregnant or breastfeeding.

But The Heart & Stroke Foundation claims that it’s better to use BMI in conjunction with other body weight analysis tools as well – like a measuring tape! – because BMI doesn’t say where the fat is located or even if it’s fat at all and not muscle weight. Arnold Schwarzenegger, for example, had a BMI of 35 (translated as severely obese) during the height of his body-building career.  See also: Abdominal Fat Trumps BMI.

What’s the remedy for all apple-shapes out there?  The advice from experts at the Quebec Heart & Lung Institute is:

“Regular physical activity for the majority of women – just a good 45 minutes of brisk walking every day can do wonders for your waistline.”

Are you an apple or a pear?  Read what the Heart & Stroke Foundation says about how to accurately take your measurements. And find out more helpful tips to trim down that apple.

© 2009 Carolyn Thomas www.myheartsisters.org

See also:


3 thoughts on “Women’s waist size predictive of heart disease

  1. I wonder if waist size is as important a risk factor as we age? Every woman I know complains that as they approach middle age they get thicker around the middle no matter how fit their bodies are.

    Love this website!


  2. Here in the U.K. the Daily Mail reported last month: “A medical U-turn has cast doubt on warnings that being overweight and ‘apple-shaped’ is especially dangerous to the heart.”

    This flawed headline raised hopes for all apple-shapes out there, but as the researchers wrote: “BMI, waist circumference and waist-to-hip ratio were all found to have a similar strength of association with coronary heart disease, stroke and cardiovascular disease overall.”


  3. Wow— those illustrations of the body fat from The Mayo Clinic are so gross. That’s what inside of us? It’s enough to make me put down the Ben & Jerry’s —- 😉


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