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Waist Circumference More Important For Measuring Health Than BMI

A Big Waist Means Big Health Troubles

When it comes to measuring your overall health, a simple measuring tape proves to be a more important tool than the scale. While neck circumference is gaining popularity as a new way to gauge a person's health and fitness level, a new study sponsored by the American Cancer Society again confirms waist size is the leading indicator for health risk beating out body mass index (BMI), the standard measurement for obesity. Excessive abdominal fat increases your risk for a wide variety of chronic and deadly health problems, including respiratory illness, heart disease, and cancer.

The new study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that folks with large waists have a greater risk of death than others with normal waist measurements — nearly double — even when those with a large waist circumference have a normal BMI. The upper end of healthy waist measurements is 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women. The study followed 100,000 subject for 10 years and found that even with a normal BMI, four extra inches around the waist increased the risk of dying from between 15 percent to 25 percent.

American's middles have been steadily growing, with the average waistline increasing around one inch every 10 years since the 1960s. Grab a measuring tape and check your health. Use our hip-to-waist ratio calculator to assess your risk level.

Image Source: Thinkstock
Spectra Spectra 7 years
I think it's also slightly flawed, only because some women have very muscular torsos. Like Anon #3, I've got a boy-shaped body with a thicker waist and narrow hips. I have a low % of BF and my blood glucose levels are always totally normal. Total waist circumference can be a little better, only because unless you are very tall, it's hard to have a waist over 35 inches around and still have a low body fat percentage.
Sasseefrass Sasseefrass 7 years
Yeah I agree. The waist to hip ration has the potential for similar flaws as the BMI. Really, I think doctors need to get on board and learn how to use calipers to measure body fat in office. If they can be trained to do basic surgery, then calipers shouldn't be a big deal.
guavajelly guavajelly 7 years
My waist is around 40 inches which is scary, I am doing something about it though. But I do wonder what height they did used to gauge what is safe, I'm 5'8". At any rate, post like these motivate people to get in shape, at least they motivate me!
Sasseefrass Sasseefrass 7 years
I think using the waist to hip ratio (as mentioned) would be a more reliable indicator of health than a simple waist measurement. Using waist measurement alone shortchanges those of us who are above-average height. A 35 inch waist on a 5 foot tall woman means something totally different than it does on someone who is 5 foot 10.
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