The importance of waist circumference

Your waistline is an important number to know, especially if you have chronic health problems (such as heart disease) or risk factors for diabetes (such as family history).

In fact, research shows that waist circumference may be as important as body mass index (BMI), the ratio of weight to height that can indicate obesity, in predicting disease risk and overall health. That’s because BMI doesn’t tell you how fat is distributed in the body.

By contrast, a large waistline indicates fat accumulation in the intra-abdominal area — an area where fat affects internal organs and is more metabolically active than fat in other areas of the body.

People with larger waist-to-hip ratios have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, whether they are overweight or not.

How to measure your waist

Getting an accurate waist measurement is easy:

  1. Stand up straight and relax. Exhale normally.
  2. Find your hip bones and wrap a tape measure around your body above them. A good aiming point is between your hip bone and the lowest rib. In most people, this location should be just above the navel, but it can vary.
  3. Make sure the tape measure is flat on your body and parallel to the floor. It should fit snugly against your skin, but not tight.
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Waist Measurement Recommendations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that waist circumferences above the following increase the risk of obesity-related diseases:

  • Male: 40 inches
  • Non-pregnant women: 35 inches

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a waist circumference assessment for people with a BMI of 25 or higher. However, at least one study has shown that people with a lower BMI but a higher waistline have a higher risk of developing diabetes.

A BMI of less than 18.5 is considered underweight, between 18.5 and 24.9 is optimal, between 25 and 29.9 is overweight, and over 30 is technically obese. Body mass index can be calculated by comparing height and weight.

To find your BMI, divide your weight in pounds by your height in inches; multiply the result by 703 to convert from lbs/inches2 to kg/m2.

When used alone, BMI measurements are not particularly accurate at predicting health and heart disease risk. Works with waistline for a clearer picture.

Risks of having an oversized waist

Waist circumferences greater than 35 inches for women or 40 inches for men have several serious risks, including:

  • type 2 diabetes
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • hypertension
  • Insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia
  • Glucose intolerance
  • Dyslipidemia
  • Dementia
  • impaired lung function
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • certain types of cancer
  • die
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Waist circumference and metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a group of co-occurring conditions that increase the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Abdominal or central obesity (larger waist circumference) and insulin resistance were considered the two most important risk factors.

Metabolic syndrome – a precursor to stroke, diabetes, and more

Reasons for a high waist

A larger waistline is usually caused by visceral fat in the abdomen. Visceral fat is fat that develops between and around the internal organs. This type of fat is different from “regular” fat that is located under the skin and can be pinched. This type of fat is located deep in the abdomen and is thought to have very high inflammatory activity.

Fat cells were once thought to function only as an energy store. However, it is now known that they also secrete hormones. They play a role in responding to infection, inflammation, and injury, among other things. They also secrete inflammatory and anti-inflammatory substances. Inflammation may be a major factor in the pathogenesis of diabetes. Fat cells secrete adiponectin, a protein hormone that increases insulin sensitivity and reduces the risk of atherosclerosis and diabetes. However, as fat cells increase, the production of adiponectin decreases.

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If you’re physically, mentally, or emotionally stressed, your levels of the stress hormone cortisol may be high. Chronically elevated levels can cause your body to deposit more visceral fat in the abdomen.

BMI, waist circumference or waist-to-hip ratio?

how to trim your waist

There are several effective ways to reduce your waistline in a healthy way.

  • Lifestyle changes, including healthy eating and regular exercise
  • quit smoking and keep it
  • If you have type 2 diabetes, metformin and thiazolidinediones may help reduce your waistline

If you exceed recommended guidelines, work with your primary care provider to determine the best way to reduce your waistline.

VigorTip words

There are many metrics that measure overall health. The waistline happens to be just one. It’s not the most important metric, but it can serve as a useful clue to determine your long-term health. If you’re concerned about waist size, talk to your healthcare provider about safe ways to lose weight and reduce your risk of chronic disease.