How to Assess Health Risk with Waist Size Measurement

You can’t use your waist size to get an absolute percentage of body fat, but measuring your waistline does provide information about the location of your body fat. And knowing where your fat is located, along with your BMI, enables you to determine whether you’re overweight and at risk for health problems.

Fat that accumulates around your stomach area makes you more susceptible to a variety of health problems. People who accumulate fat around their waists (known as apples) are at greater risk for developing serious chronic illness than are people who collect fat on their hips and buttocks, known as pears.

Follow these steps to get your waist circumference:

1

Relax your shoulders and stand naturally.

No fair trying to suck in your middle.

2

With a tape measure, measure your waist at the point below your rib cage but above your belly button.

Make sure the tape is snug but doesn’t pinch your skin and is parallel to the floor.

3

Breathe out.

You may have to tighten the tape measure.

4

Read the number.

If your BMI is 25 to 34.9 and your waist size is more than 40 inches (if you’re a man), or more than 35 inches if you’re a woman, you’re at an increased risk of developing serious weight-related health problems. Even if your BMI falls into the healthy weight range of 19 to 25, you’re at a greater health risk if your waist size is larger than your hips.

The following table illustrates how waist circumference coupled with BMI increases your health risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Larger Waist Circumference Health Risks
BMI Health Risk of Less Than 40 Inches Men/Less Than 35 Inches Women Health Risk of More Than 40 Inches Men/More Than 35 Inches Women
25.0 – 29.9 Increased High
30.0 – 34.9 High Very High
35.0 – 39.9 Very High Very High
over 40.0 Extremely High Extremely High
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