The most common measurement used to determine overall health is BMI or Body Mass Index. But having a normal or low BMI doesn’t mean you’re healthy, nor having a high BMI mean you’re unhealthy. This may sound odd but to help your doctor better assess your overall health, measure your waist size too. Here’s how.
Waist Size as the New Measurement of Health
A big waist size matters because, even if you’re not overweight or have a low BMI, it indicates you have more fat stored around your abdominals, or what they call “abdominal obesity”. Abdominal obesity is closely associated with a higher risk of obesity-related health issues, even after taking BMI into account.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here are the guidelines that put you at higher risk of obesity-related conditions:
- A man whose waist circumference is more than 40 inches
- A non-pregnant woman whose waist circumference is more than 35 inches
How to Measure:
To accurately measure your waist circumference, use measuring tape and wrap it around your belly button. Consider taking these measurements first thing in the morning, after using the bathroom, and without a shirt on to keep measurements as accurate as possible. A lot of different factors can influence your measurements. These include your hydration levels, whether you’ve eaten, and even your menstrual cycle. Make sure that the tape is horizontal across your waist and that it’s not pulling tightly on your skin.
Some say measuring waist-to-hip ratio is a more reflective measuremeny, but the Harvard School of Public Health Obesity Prevention Source noted their research showed that waist size alone and waist-to-hip ratio measurements were both equally effective.
Overall, it is important to remember that both waist size and BMI are just screening tools, and both can’t differentiate muscle from fat very well. You still need your doctor to draw clearer conclusions about your health.