BACKGROUND: Waist circumferences (WCs) in white men and women that represent a risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) equivalent to that of body mass indexes (BMIs; in kg/m2) of 25 and 30 have been identified. However, WC cutoffs for other race-ethnicity groups remain unknown. OBJECTIVE: The objective was to determine WC cutoffs for CVD risk in non-Hispanic blacks (blacks), Mexican Americans (MA), and non-Hispanic whites (whites). DESIGN: Data from 10,969 participants in the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1988-1994) were analyzed. The presence of CVD risk factors was the main outcome. Sex- and race-ethnicity-specific WC cutoffs were determined with logistic regression models by linking WC cutoffs with equivalent CVD risk based on BMI cutoffs for overweight and obesity. WC cutoffs for metabolic syndrome risk factors were similarly calculated. RESULTS: Correlations between WC and lipid profiles, blood pressure, and glucose were significantly higher than those between BMI and these same variables in all groups. The WC cutoffs were approximately 5-6 cm greater for white than for black men at BMIs between 25 and 40, and those for MA were intermediate. In women, few differences in WC cutoffs were observed between the groups. Simplified WC cutoffs corresponding to BMIs of 25 and 30, largely independent of age, for the 3 race-ethnicity groups were 89 and 101 cm for men and 83 and 94 cm for women. Minimal distances in receiver operating characteristic curves tended to be shorter when WC cutoffs rather than BMI cutoffs were used. CONCLUSIONS: WC is a better indicator of CVD risk than is BMI in the 3 race-ethnicity groups studied. The proposed WC cutoffs are more sensitive than are BMI cutoffs in predicting CVD risk.
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