Waist circumference is a simple and effective way to assess an individual's health risk associated with overweight and obesity.
How to measure it?
The measurement is taken by placing a tape measure around the narrowest part of the waist, just above the hip bones, and measuring the distance after exhaling.
Indicator of visceral fat
A higher waist circumference is a reliable indicator of the amount of abdominal fat, which is also referred to as central or visceral fat.
Excess abdominal fat is particularly harmful because it is located near vital organs such as the liver, pancreas, and intestines.
It releases harmful substances called cytokines into the bloodstream that can cause inflammation, increase insulin resistance, and increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Ideal waist circumference
For women, a waist circumference of greater than 35 inches is considered a risk factor For men, a waist size of more than 40 inches is considered a concern.
Different organizations and government agencies have different recommendations for healthy waist circumference values. Here are a few:
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that a waist circumference of greater than 94 cm (37 inches) in men and 80 cm (31.5 inches) in women is associated with an increased risk of health problems.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that men have a waist circumference less than 40 inches and women have a waist circumference less than 35 inches.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that both men and women aim to keep their waist circumference less than 40 inches.
It is important to keep in mind that waist circumference criteria varies also based on the ethnicity. In Asians, use the following criteria
- Male: ≥ 90 cm
- Female: ≥ 80 cm
- Increased risk of heart disease: Excess abdominal fat is associated with high levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol and low levels of "good" HDL cholesterol, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Type 2 diabetes: Abdominal fat is associated with insulin resistance, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. People with high levels of abdominal fat are at increased risk of developing this condition.
- Metabolic syndrome: Abdominal fat is also associated with a cluster of metabolic risk factors, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol. This cluster of risk factors is known as metabolic syndrome and is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
- Certain cancers: Excess abdominal fat has been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer, including colorectal, breast, and endometrial cancer.
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