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How to Measure Your Waist Size

Body Mass Index and Your Health

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a ratio of an individual’s weight (in kilograms) to height (in meters). Clinicians use it as an indicator of obesity and underweight. In addition, doctors use BMI to screen patients for more tests.

However, the relationship between the BMI value and health of an individual is not direct. A normal or low BMI does not necessarily mean that an individual is healthy. Similarly, a high BMI does not imply failing health.

Waist Size and Abdominal Obesity

For a more thorough assessment of your health, doctors often need to ascertain your waist size.

Waist size is often independent of what your BMI is. It matters because it is indicative of how much fat is stored around your abdomen. Health practitioners refer to too much fat around your abdomen as “abdominal obesity.”

Abdominal obesity has a plethora of adverse health effects. However of much importance is its close link with a higher risk of obesity-related health issues.

Waist Size in Men and Women

The waist circumference of men and women differ considerably. This is because men typically store more fat in their abdominals than women do.

After multiple research and consultations, the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) established a safe limit of the waist circumference for men and women.

An individual who has a waist circumference that is above the safe limit has higher risk of developing obesity-related conditions, such as cardiac (heart) problems.

  • The waist circumference safe limit for men is 40 inches.
  • The waist circumference safe limit for a non-pregnant woman is 35 inches.

Therefore, a man who has a waist circumference of above 40 inches and a non-pregnant woman whose waist circumference is above 35 inches are at higher risk of having obesity-related health issues.

How to Measure Your Waist Circumference

In light of this, it is important to keep track of your waist circumference. Thankfully, you do not need expensive devices to measure your waist size.

All you need is one measuring tape. It is affordable and you can purchase it at a drug or fabric store.

To take your measurement, simply wrap the tape horizontally across your waist at the level of your belly button (navel).

To get an accurate measurement, you should ensure that:

  • The tape does not pull tightly on your skin
  • That taking the measurement should be the first thing you do in the morning after using the bathroom

This is because a number of factors can affect the measurements you take. These factors include:

  • Whether you have eaten, How much food you consumed, and When last you ate before taking the measurement
  • Hydration levels
  • Menstrual cycle, for ladies


Waist Circumference versus Waist-to-Hip Ratio

A similar metric to waist circumference is the waist-to-hip ratio. Some maintain that the waist-to-hip ratio is a better metric than waist circumference for making medical inferences on an individual’s health.

However, this is an unfounded assertion. According to the Harvard School of Public Health Obesity Prevention Source, both waist size and waist-to-hip ratio measurements when used singly were equally effective in their research.

Nonetheless, compared with the multiple measurements required for ascertaining the waist-to-hip ratio, taking a waist circumference measurement is easier and more pragmatic for most individuals.

BMI, Waist Size, and Your Health

BMI and Waist Size are not absolute indicators of how well or bad your health is. For example, a common shortcoming with both metrics is that they are not efficient in differentiating muscle from fat.

Consequently, you need a doctor to make concrete conclusions about your health. Needless to say, it does not hurt to keep track of your waist circumference and strive to keep it below the safe limit by eating right and exercising often.