Did you know that having excess ‘tummy fat’ or a large waist circumference can increase your risk of premature death, even if you are not ‘overweight’?
It can also increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes and hypertension, which are two of the biggest silent killers among many South Africans. The Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology (CDE) helps us break down why having a thicker waist can put your life at risk.
A thick waist can put you at a higher risk
A large waist circumference is a red flag for excessive abdominal or tummy fat, which puts you at higher risk of obesity-related conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, stroke and cancer.
According to a South Africa Demographic and Health Survey (2016), 11% of men and 41% of women in South Africa are obese (20% and 27% are overweight respectively). Changing your lifestyle - by choosing healthy foods and exercising for at least 30 minutes a day 5 times a week - can help you to reduce your risk of being part of 1 in 28 South African’s who are diagnosed with cancer each year.
Increase your chances of dying prematurely
In the end, we all die. But having a thick waist can increase your chances of dying earlier. Even with a normal Body Mass Index, (BMI – your weight (in kilograms) divided by your height (in metres squared) which is used to classify your weight into broad categories of health risk - a larger waist can place your life at risk.
According to medical research, men between the ages of 18 and 25 years old who increased the circumference of their waist by 10 cm increased their mortality risk by a mean of 16%. Furthermore, women with a normal BMI who increased their circumference by the same amount raised their mortality rate by 25%.
As many as 50% of people who have diabetes are unaware of their status
Poverty, fast-paced urban lifestyles, lack of sleep, and easy access and availability of fast, energy-dense foods, increase the likelihood of South Africans adopting poor eating habits, which increases their chances of being overweight and, in a domino effect, of developing diabetes. Of the more than 425 million adults worldwide who have diabetes, as many as 50% of these are not aware of it (two-thirds of South Africans).
Why checking your BMI and waist circumference can start the journey to saving your life
Finding out where to start doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Knowing your current BMI by using tools such as a BMI calculator, will help determine your health risk. BMI, however, should always be considered together with other measures like waist circumference in the evaluation and monitoring of excess adiposity (tummy fat). Coupling this with regular health check-ups can lead to early detection of diabetes, cancer and other conditions, so that you can get access to the right treatment as soon as possible.
A more definitive insight into your level of unhealthy excess adiposity (body fat) is knowing your waist circumference. A risky waistline is anything above 80 cm for women and 94 cm or more for men. Having a waistline that is above these numbers could lead to an early death and is something that can be easily avoided by adjusting your lifestyle.
While maintaining a healthy lifestyle can reduce your risk of having diabetes and cancer, it doesn’t mean it is not possible for you to get these conditions. Some things in life are beyond our control, which is why it is vital to have sufficient life cover in place that will protect you financially during those unforeseeable events.