Waist Measurement

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Introduction[edit | edit source]

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Waist measurement is a simple check to tell if you’re carrying excess body fat around your middle.

There is now good evidence that central obesity carries more health risks compared with total obesity assessed by body mass index (BMI). It has been suggested that waist circumference (WC), a proxy for central obesity, should be included with BMI in a ‘matrix’ to categorise health risk.[2]

Measuring the Waist[edit | edit source]

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Waist Circumference (WC): To measure WC, patients should stand with their arms crossed on the contralateral shoulders. The placement of the measuring tape should be snugly around the lateral aspect of each ilium at the mid-axillary line. It is an essential measure of anthropometry in adults and children as it directly measures central adiposity. Increasing central adiposity is associated with an increased risk of morbidity and mortality due to an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease[3].

Your health is at risk if your WC is:

  1. Men: Over 94cm (about 37 inches)
  2. Women: Over 80cm (about 31.5 inches)[1]

BMI[edit | edit source]

Body mass index (BMI), is a measure for estimating total body fat and is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared. But while it can be a useful tool, the distribution of fat on your body is more important than the amount when it comes to predicting health risks. A better measure of a weight problem eg obesity can be measured using a person’s waist circumference [4]Or assess body composition.

Why Waist Size Matters[edit | edit source]

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It’s not just how much fat you’re carrying on your body that matters to your health. Where it is plays a key role too.

  • Research shows that weight around the hips can actually provide some level of protection against disease, but carrying excess body fat around your middle has the opposite effect.
  • Waist measurement can indicate how much internal fat is coating organs eg the liver, kidneys and heart, which increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

Official guidelines say regardless of your height, your health is at risk if your waist size is more than 94cm for men and 80cm for women[5].

Waist to Height Ratio[edit | edit source]


Waist to height ratio (WHtR) is a better predictor of heart disease and diabetes risk than BMI[2]. Keeping your WC to less than half your height can help increase life expectancy for every person in the world. eg

  1. A man who is 6ft or 72 inches tall (183 cm), should keep his waist under 36 inches (91 cm)
  2. A woman who is 5ft 4 in or 64 inches tall (163 cm), should keep her waist measurement under 32 inches (81 cm).

The idea of using WHtR to predict cardiometabolic risk is not new, but is coming to prominence as more studies reveal its value[2].

Use of a simple boundary value for WHtR (0.5) identifies more people at ‘early health risk’ than does a more complex ‘matrix’ using traditional boundary values for BMI and WC. WHtR may be a simpler and more predictive indicator of the ‘early heath risks’ associated with central obesity.

References[edit | edit source]