Waist Size – Why It Matters

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Waist Size is a Key Indicator Of Health and Risk of Serious Illness

Waist Circumference (or distance around the waist) is an important indicator of an individual’s amount of abdominal obesity, which is fat held around the stomach. Excess abdominal fat, resulting in waist sizes greater than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men, is strongly associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and death.

To measure waist size:

  1. Place a tape measure around your body at the top of your hipbone (normally at the level of your belly button.)
  2. Ensure the tape measure is level (horizontal around the waist), and snug, but should not be compressing the skin.
  3. Do not hold your breath
  4. Make a note of the measurement after you exhale.

Why Excess Abdominal Fat Is An Health Risk

Waist circumference reveals how much visceral fat a person is carrying packed around their internal organs. Visceral fat is different than subcutaneous fat, which is fat found under the skin on the thighs, hips, arms and back, and intramuscular fat which is the fat found dispersed throughout skeletal muscle. The problem with visceral fat is its proximity to the vital internal organs (stomach, liver, intestines, kidneys, etc.) This deep fat tissue appears to affect the organs and causes metabolic disorders such as:

  • Poor blood sugar control
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Increased risk of breast cancer and gallbladder disease

Waist size is an important, easy indicator of health

Waist Size Recommendations

Studies have shown an increased health risk for:

  • Men whose waist circumference is more than 40 inches
  • Non-pregnant women whose waist circumference is more than 35 inches

Measuring your waist circumference is cheap, quick, and something you can do at home.

Waist circumference is considered a screening tool, not a diagnostic. Individuals should consult a health care provider for additional evaluation.

Waist to Hip Ratio

Another related measure is Waist to Hip Ratio. Carrying body fat in your hips, rather than your waist, is less of a concern. If you compare your waist size to your hip size, a ratio of .80 or higher indicates an “apple” shape which is considered less desirable than a “pear” shape (carrying body fat lower, well below the internal organs).

Measuring your Waist to Hip Ratio isn’t strictly necessary if you are measuring your waist size according to the instructions provided.

Waist size is important - or else your pants might fall down