Why is it good to be aware of the size of your waist? It is simply one of the best indicators to determine your health and whether you are overweight.
Waist circumference is considered the best way to assess the risk of developing diseases related to being overweight. These include type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and certain forms of cancer. Your waist measurement quite simply says a lot about your health and is one of the most important factors to consider when talking about a healthy weight.
Where you store the fat on your body has an impact on your health. The most dangerous fat is the layer of fat we accumulate around our waist and organs, called visceral or abdominal fat. If the fat is mainly on the hips, it doesn’t have nearly the same negative effect; this type of fat is called subcutaneous fat.
Abdominal fat is dangerous because it enters the bloodstream, causing health problems such as high blood sugar, high cholesterol and triglycerides, and high blood pressure. It also damages the liver, pancreas and blood vessels.
Where we store our fat may be genetic and different for different people, but a lot of it has to do with our diet. In short, we simply eat more than our bodies can burn, and mainly from poorer sources, such as fast food, cakes, soft drinks and sweets.
A Healthy waist meaurement
So what is a healthy waist size? For women, the following measurements apply:
- 80 cm or below is considered to be healthy
- 80–88 cm is OK, but look out for changes
- 88 cm or above – health risk
For men, a waist measurement of 94 cm is considered healthy and over 102 cm is considered to constitute a risk of developing secondary diseases.
There is also a study that has found a good rule of thumb – your waist measurement should never be more than half of your height. So if you are 170 cm tall, your waist measurement should be max 85 cm.
How to measure
So how do you measure your waist correctly?
- Stand in front of a mirror to be able to check that the tape measure is horizontal.
- Place the tape measure just above your belly button, directly above your hip bone.
- Stand with your legs slightly apart, breathing out just before you measure.
- Do not tighten too much
Body mass index (BMI) measures the ratio of your weight to your height. This formula is used as an international measure to determine whether you are underweight, normal weight or overweight.
What your BMI doesn’t take into account is where the fat is on your body. It is therefore a poor measurement to rely on entirely, but it is useful in combination with other factors. For example, bodybuilders often have a high BMI, despite having a low body fat percentage.
You can also be ‘skinny fat’, where you have low muscle mass and a relatively low weight with a low or normal BMI but a larger abdominal circumference. In this case, your waist measurement says more about your health and future health risks than having a healthy BMI.
So don’t just chase a number on the scales, it doesn’t tell the whole story. It is important to look at several indicators, and most importantly waist circumference. Measuring your waist once a month can be a good new habit to adopt; it’s always easier to prevent weight gain than to work off the extra pounds. So be proactive. If, during your health journey, you find that you have better results with the tape measure than with the scales, don’t despair! Every centimetre you lose improves your future health.
Sources: Swedish food agency, BMJ, 1177.se