What are the health risks of a large waist?

Anthony L. Komaroff, MD
Internal Medicine
An increase in waist size is an indicator of increased body fat. As you grow older, you may find that your waist size increases even though you have not gained pounds. That's because people tend to lose muscle mass and gain fat with age. Any increase in waist size is a signal that your percentage of body fat is increasing. In the past, experts thought that carrying most of your fat above the waist in your upper body (the "apple shape") was more dangerous to the heart than fat stored lower in the body, in the hips and thighs (the "pear shape"). But evidence suggests that the location of excess weight doesn't seem to make a difference -- extra pounds harm the heart regardless of where they accumulate.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Half of men and 70% of women in the United States between the ages of 50 and 79 have waist sizes that indicate obesity. Too much of a waist can lead to heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. That’s because excess abdominal, or omentum, fat pumps out toxic chemicals that not only keep you fat but also causes inflammation that poisons your organs, especially your liver.
This content originally appeared on

Continue Learning about Obesity

Stress and Obesity—What’s the Connection?
Stress and Obesity—What’s the Connection?
Janet Jackson talks about how she’s used food to soothe tension. In an interview with the Telegraph she once said: “Food has always brought me comfort...
Read More
What is a bariatrician?
Craig B. Primack, MDCraig B. Primack, MD
There is a certification board for bariatricians (medical weight specialists) which have just receiv...
More Answers
What are the symptoms of obesity?
Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)Honor Society of Nursing (STTI)
You may first notice obesity through your appearance, your clothes feeling tight, or the scale showi...
More Answers
How Can I Slow the Progression of Arthritis?
How Can I Slow the Progression of Arthritis?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.