Heart Disease

Waist size trumps body weight to gauge heart disease risk

Q: I recently met my new doctor. He was worried about my waist size. I've always had a big belly but I have never been overweight. What's more important: body weight or waist size?

A: That's terrific that your doctor focused on your waist size. Even though you are not overweight, having a large belly raises your risk of developing heart disease. Mounting evidence suggests that waist circumference is a better gauge of heart disease risk than body mass index (BMI).

A big belly -- what doctors call central or abdominal obesity -- signals the presence of visceral fat. It's the fat that surrounds your internal organs. In general, as your waistline increases, so does your visceral...