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Waist Circumference Health Risk Factor
Healthy and Unhealthy Waist Measurement and Excess Abdominal Fat
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Waist Circumference and Health

Waist Circumference - Introduction

Waist circumference and BMI are interrelated, but waist circumference provides an independent prediction of risk over and above that of BMI. This because body fat that accumulates around the stomach area poses a greater health risk than fat stored in the lower half of the body.

Waist Circumference - Gender

A man's body is typically more "apple" shaped. He tends to collect fat around his waist and stomach area (beer belly). By contrast, womens bodies are more "pear" shaped as they tend to collect fat on their hips, buttocks and thighs. People with "apple" body shapes are more prone to develop diabetes and heart disease than those with "pear" body shapes.

Waist Circumference - Relevant for Normal Weight and Overweight

Waist circumference measurement is particularly useful in patients who are categorized as overweight on the BMI scale, although increased waist circumference can also be a marker for increased risk even in persons of normal weight. However, for someone with a BMI of 35 or over (obese), waist circumference has little added predictive power of disease risk beyond that of BMI. It is therefore not necessary to measure waist circumference in individuals with BMIs of 35 or over.

Waist Circumference - Health Risks

A high waist circumference is associated with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and CVD in patients with a BMI in a range between 25 and 34.9. Monitoring changes in waist circumference over time may be helpful, in addition to measuring BMI, since it can provide an estimate of increased abdominal fat even in the absence of a change in BMI. Furthermore, in obese patients with metabolic complications, changes in waist circumference are useful predictors of changes in CVD risk factors.

Measuring Your Waist Circumference

Measure your waist without holding the tape too tightly (or too loosely). As a rough guide, your waist is the narrowest part of your trunk, or approximately 1 inch above your belly button.

Waist Measurements - Healthy and Unhealthy

Women

  • Waist circumference of over 31 inches (about 80cm) indicates slight health risk.
  • Waist of over 35 inches (about 90cm) indicates substantially increased health risk.

Men

  • Waist of over 37 inches (about 94cm) indicates slight health risk.
  • Waist of over 40 inches (about 102cm) indicates substantially increased health risk.

Waist Circumference and BMI - Guidelines

Waist circumference and Body Mass Index (BMI) are interrelated. Check if your BMI and waist measurement fall into the healthy weight or overweight categories. See also Waist-Hip Ratio

Table 1. Healthy vs. Unhealthy Weight - Using BMI and Waist Circumference

Healthy Weight Overweight
BMI BMI 19-24.9 BMI Over 25
Percent Body Fat Women 15-25 percent Over 27
Men 10-20 percent Over 20
Waist Circumference Women Varies 35+
Increased health risk if combined with BMI 25+
Men Varies 40+
Increased health risk if combined with BMI 25+

Sources:Includes information from National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and American Dietetics Association.

See also:
Weight Related Risk Factors
Weight Risk Assessment


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