Does Waist Circumference Add to the Predictive Power of the Body Mass Index for Coronary Risk?


National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, 5600 Nathan Shock Drive, Baltimore, MD 21224. E-mail:


Objectives: To examine the power of the combined measurements of body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC) for the prediction of abnormality in coronary heart disease risk factors and to determine whether the additional measurement of WC is predictive in older men and women.

Research Methods and Procedures: 1190 men and 751 women of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging were dichotomized into younger (<65 years) and older (65+ years) age groups. Coronary risk factors in the realms of glucose/insulin metabolism, blood pressure, and plasma lipids were assessed. The relationship of BMI and WC, singly and combined, to 10 risk factors for coronary heart disease was examined.

Results: In younger and older men and women, BMI and WC are highly correlated (0.84 to 0.88). BMI and WC are also significantly correlated to all 10 coronary risk factors in younger men and women and to 8 of the 10 in the older men and women. Both partial correlation and logistic regression analyses revealed a modest but significant improvement in the prediction of coronary risk in younger men and women by WC after controlling for the level of BMI. There was no improvement in the older subjects.

Discussion: WC adds only modestly to the prediction of coronary risk in younger subjects once BMI is known, and adds nothing to the production of risk in older subjects.