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A Quick Way to Tell If You'll Live Long
Your waist size--not your weight or your body mass index (BMI)--may be the key to your life span.

Even if you're not overweight or obese and your BMI is within the normal range, if you have a fat tummy, you are at risk for an early death. (BMI is a measure of weight in relation to height.)

That's the word from researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia, who have determined that people with a normal BMI who carry weight around the middle, which is called "central obesity," have a 22 percent higher risk of death than people who carry fat elsewhere on their bodies, reports HealthDay News. For those who are obese, the risk of early death is 13 percent higher if they also have central obesity.

To trim your waistline and tone your abs, just play with this toy.

How do you determine if you have excess belly fat? The answer is your waist-to-hip ratio, which is calculated by dividing your waist measurement by your hip measurement. Women's waist-to-hip ratio should be less than 0.85 and men's less than 0.90. If your numbers are higher than that, it's time to eat less and move more.

The study: Led by Emmanuel Stamatakis, the team examined data on almost 43,000 participants with an average age of 58, all of whom were part of the Health Survey for England or the Scottish Health Survey. Each person's BMI and waist-to-hip ratio was compared against his or her health history during a decade of follow-up. At the start of the study, just over 50 percent of the participants had central obesity. Forty-four percent were overweight, while 25 percent were obese. Not surprisingly, those who were overweight or obese were more likely to have central obesity than those with a normal BMI.

The results:

  • Even those of normal weight have a 22 percent higher risk of dying if they have a big belly.

  • The health risks posed by a fat tummy are the same for both men and women.

  • Men are more likely to store fat around their middle, while women are more likely to store fat in their hips and buttocks.

  • A big belly is hard on the heart. The risk of heart-related death is 25 percent higher for those with central obesity and a normal BMI, 26 percent higher in those with central obesity who are overweight and 56 percent higher for those with central obesity who are obese.

  • Excessive fat around the middle is also linked to insulin resistance, high cholesterol and increased inflammation, which are all risk factors for heart disease.

The study findings were published online in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Step it up! If you take just THIS many steps a day, you're more likely to have a healthy body weight, less fat, and a smaller waist.

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