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Public health

Keep an eye on your waist

Waist circumference indicates risk of heart and metabolic diseases

Léo Ramos Chaves

A document published by the International Atherosclerosis Society (IAS) and the International Chair on Cardiometabolic Risk (ICCR) in February recommends that health professionals include a simple procedure when evaluating and monitoring overweight and obese patients (Nature Reviews Endocrinology, February 4). Measuring waist circumference, they say, is an important way of monitoring fat stored in the abdomen, which is harmful to health. Men with waists larger than 94 centimeters (cm) and women with waists larger than 80 cm, regardless of their height, are more susceptible to diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The procedure can supplement another more commonly used indicator: body mass index (BMI). Long used as an indicator of whether a person is overweight or obese, BMI has proven insufficient when assessing cardiac and metabolic risks. Cardiologist Raul Santos, from the Heart Institute at the University of São Paulo (INCOR-USP), participated in the discussion behind the report, which also suggests adjusting the values considered healthy for men from 94 cm to 90 cm. The document also warns of the existence of variations across ethnicities.