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Contrary to popular belief, one’s weight may not be the most adequate measure of their health. A new study sponsored by the American Cancer Society confirms that waist size is the leading indicator for health risk. Body mass index (BMI), which is used to measure obesity, is most commonly used when assessing one’s health.

According to the study, excessive abdominal fat increases a wide variety of health problems, including heart disease, cancer and respiratory illness. The study, which is published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that people with large waists have nearly double the risk of death as compared to people with normal waists. What is worse is that people with a normal BMI can still have a large waist.

The suggested maximum waist measurement for women is 35 inches and for men is 40 inches. The study, which followed 100,000 subjects for ten years, found that four extra inches, even with a normal BMI, could increase the risk of dying from between 15-25%.

Since the 1960s, the average American waistline has grown one inch every ten years. With healthy issues such as diabetes and cancer on the rise, it is not hard to believe that there is a correlation between America’s growing waistline and its rising medical bills. To assess your risk level, grab a measuring tape and check your size on a hip-to-waist ratio calculator from