Half of middle-aged Brits are too fat – putting them at risk of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
The latest NHS figures reveal 61% of women aged 55 to 64 and 52% of women aged 45 to 54 have “very high” waist measurements – of 34 inches or higher.
Among men, 46% of 55 to 64 year-olds and 38% of 45 to 54 year-olds have waist measurements that are too high – 40 inches or higher.
Sir Simon Stevens, the head of the NHS, told the Daily Mail that expanding waists were a growing sign of Britain’s obesity crisis.
He warned that hundreds of thousands of people were at risk of deadly and debilitating diseases.
In 2003, 41% of women and 31% of men had very high measurements but by 2018 this had risen to 48% of women and 34% of men.
For both men and women, average waist sizes gradually increase with age until 75, at which point they fall slightly. They reach a peak in the 65 to 74 age group.
Among 16 to 24-year-olds, 17% of women and 9% of men have very large waists.
Emma Shields, senior clinical adviser at Diabetes UK, warned that having a large waist size can increase someone’s risk of type 2 diabetes, even if their weight and body mass index are healthy.
“This is because extra weight around the waist can cause fat to build up around organs like the liver and pancreas, which can lead to insulin resistance,” she said.
Alice Davies, Cancer Research UK’s health information office, added that being overweight or obese can increase the risk of 13 different types of cancer.
The NHS defines a desirable waistline as being less than 31in (80cm) for women and less than 37in (94cm) for men.