Measure my Waist, Please

Hypertension and lipid indicators can be seen with teens waist circumference measurements

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Teens' waist measurements can tell doctors more than what size jeans they wear. Waist circumference is also a pretty helpful indicator of a teen's blood pressure and lipid levels.

While doctors have traditionally used the measurement of body mass index - the ratio of a person's weight to their height - to classify whether they are overweight or obese, a new study reveals that waist-related measurements can provide a more complete picture of a teen's health.

"Encourage your teen to join a sports team."

Michael Khoury, MD, at the University of Toronto and the Hospital for Sick Children in Ontario, Canada, worked with colleagues to evaluate data collected from 4,104 teenagers in an Ontario high school physical education class.

A total of 3,248 students, aged 14 and 15, provided enough data to be included in the researchers' analysis, which looked at body mass index, waist circumference and waist-to-height ratio (where the waist circumference measurement is divided by the person's height measurement).

The researchers then compared these three measures of obesity with the blood pressure measurements and lipid profiles of the students.

They found all three obesity measures were approximately equally associated with the students' blood pressure and lipid measurements and that no one measure provided statistically better information than another.

After adjusting for age and gender, however, the strongest association occurred between the waist-to-height ratio and worsening lipid profiles, especially among obese teens.

Likewise, the greater a teen's waist-to-height ratio was, the higher the adolescent's risk for high blood pressure was.

"Waist measures appear to be important discriminating measurements when assessing lipid and blood pressure measurements in adolescents with high BMI and should be included when screening for cardiometabolic risk in overweight and obese adolescents," the authors wrote.

The study appeared online April 2 in the JAMA publication Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The research was funded by the CIBC World Markets Children's Miracle Foundation Chair in Child Health Research and the Canadian Institute of Health Research Team Grant in Childhood Obesity. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 3, 2012
Last Updated:
April 4, 2012