The Health Promotion Administration yesterday advised women to maintain a waist circumference of less than 80cm to stave off cardiovascular diseases, type-2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, breast cancer and colon cancer.
The national survey on changes in Taiwanese health and nutrition conducted last year found that the average waist size of Taiwanese women has been increasing over the years, with more women above the age of 19 having a waist measurement greater than 80cm, the health agency said.
While only 20.2 percent of the female participants in surveys had a waist circumference of more than 80cm during the period from 1993 to 1996, the percentage increased to 33.6 percent in the period from 2005 to 2008. Last year, the number was 46 percent, according to the agency.
Waist size also increases with age, the survey showed, with more than 80 percent of the women aged above 65 surveyed having a waistline of greater than the recommended 80cm.
Measuring waist size is done to assess abdominal or central obesity caused by fat accumulation around the waist and also for evaluating risk that a person will develop metabolic syndrome or cardiovascular diseases, the agency said.
Elevated blood pressure, elevated fasting plasma blood glucose, high triglycerides, low levels of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, along with abdominal obesity, are criteria for the diagnosis of metabolic syndrome. Meeting more than two of the five criteria is indicative of being affected by metabolic syndrome, the agency said.
Those with abdominal obesity have a 50 percent chance of developing metabolic syndrome, and if the former occurs simultaneously with abnormal blood pressure, the risk climbs to 75 percent, it said.
For people with metabolic syndrome, the risk that they will develop diabetes is six times greater than for people without the condition and they have four times and three times higher risks of hypertension and hyperlipidemia respectively, the agency said, adding that there is also a two-fold increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
The agency said that because body-fat percentages increase with age, a healthy waistline is a key to limit the threat of chronic diseases. This is particularly true for post-menopause women, who are more likely to store fat around their waists.
The agency advised women to keep their body mass index (BMI) under 24, a level which when exceeded categorizes people as overweight, and to engage in abdominal muscle training or moderate or vigorous aerobic exercises that can reduce fat, including visceral fat.
The recommended exercises include brisk walking, jumping rope, jogging, swimming, cycling and badminton, the agency said.