How to Measure Waist Circumference for Health

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Waist circumference is a measurement taken around the abdomen at the level of the navel (umbilicus). Medical professionals often use waist measurements to screen patients for possible weight-related health problems. While a useful tool, waist size is only one indicator that may indicate certain health conditions, and it should not be used to diagnose any condition or disease alone.

While medical professionals and doctors can use this method in the office, you can also measure your waistline yourself at home.

What does waist circumference tell us?

Measuring your waist size can help you understand your risk of some weight-related health conditions. Waist circumference alone cannot indicate that you have a health condition or that you will develop one in the future, but it can help you and your healthcare provider locate fat on your body and if that body fat can cause health problems for you in the future.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), if more fat is located around your waist than around your hips, you have a higher risk of diseases including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. You can use waist measurements to calculate your waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), which provides another screening tool for weight-related disease risk.

Your healthcare provider may also use a measurement of body mass index (BMI) as a health indicator. However, a 2019 study concluded that both hip-adjusted waist circumference and waist-to-height ratio are stronger indicators of health and underlying health conditions than BMI.

How to measure your waist

To measure your waist correctly, you should use a flexible, non-stretch tape measure (that is, the tape measure should not be stretched as you measure). You should also remove bulky clothing that can add extra padding around your belly.

Follow these steps to measure your waistline:

  1. Stand up to get an accurate waist measurement.
  2. Wrap the tape measure around the widest part of your belly, across from your navel. The tape measure should rest gently on your skin.
  3. Once the tape measure is correctly positioned, inhale gently and then take the measurement as you exhale.

Take the measurement three times to make sure you get the right results. Holding the tape too tight so it gets deep into your skin or holding it too loose so it falls off will cause you to get inaccurate results.

Check your health risks

To see how your waist measurement is increasing, use this chart to see if your waist measurement indicates that you are at higher risk for the disease. Individual circumstances may vary, so seek your doctor’s advice to determine next steps.

If your waist measurement is larger than the numbers shown below, your risk of weight-related health problems may increase. For Asians, the waist circumference recommendation may need to be lower. A 2019 study conducted on 209 Chinese men and 318 Chinese women found that insulin resistance increased when the waist circumference was greater than 29 inches for women and 32.5 inches for men.

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Waist circumference measurements are more risky
Sex Waist measurement
Man > 40 inches (102 cm)
Women > 35 inches (89 cm)

How to reduce your waist measurement

If your waistline falls within the high-risk range according to the table above, working with your doctor and dietitian to reduce body fat and reduce mid-section fat can improve your health and well-being. To get started, consider the following daily habits.


The first step to reducing your waist measurement for your overall health is to evaluate your eating habits. To get started, try observing your portion sizes and compare your servings with the recommended servings. If you’re not sure how much you should eat, use a calorie calculator to estimate your body’s daily calorie needs. Then, count calories to make sure you’re getting enough to fuel your body and lose weight safely.

Also, consider increasing nutrient density in your diet by incorporating more nutrient-dense foods into your meal plan, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and more. seeds, nuts, seeds, lean protein and other unprocessed foods.

Nearly a quarter of all Americans skip breakfast. While more research is needed to reinforce the importance of breakfast, a 2019 meta-analysis that included eight studies and about 284,000 participants found that skipping breakfast increases the risk of heart disease. Skipping breakfast can also increase your risk of diabetes, being overweight, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance.

Eliminating sugary drinks — especially sodas — can also cut your sugar and calorie intake. Kicking the sugary drink habit can have many benefits, including improved sleep, increased energy, and notably, weight loss. This weight loss can then lead to a decrease in waist measurements and a reduced risk of disease.

Do exercise

Once you’ve implemented a sustainable healthy eating plan, try increasing your activity levels to burn more calories throughout the day and support a strong, healthy body. Again, use a calorie estimator to see how many calories you’re currently burning per day, then add small habit changes to burn a few more calories. For example, you can take the stairs instead of the elevator at work or go for a walk every evening after dinner. Every step counts in your path to healthy living. The CDC recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 2 days a week for muscle-strengthening exercise.

Lifestyle change

Besides diet and exercise, a number of lifestyle changes can help reduce waist circumference and improve overall health. If you regularly sleep too little or don’t sleep well, it’ll be harder for you to find the motivation to make healthier choices. Improving your sleep and reducing fatigue can have a direct impact on your weight loss. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

Stress, like sleep, is also closely related to health. Research has shown that high stress can often lead to overeating and the foods we choose while stress tends to be high in calories and low in nutrients.

Finally, reducing alcohol consumption can also cut your calorie intake and help support weight loss. Eliminating or cutting back on these empty calories can help reduce your waist measurement.

A very good word

There are different ways to assess your health and disease risk — waist circumference is just one of them. If you find that you are taller than you would like, talk to your healthcare provider about your individual health risks and get recommendations on the best ways to improve your health. your overall health.

Oftentimes, small, incremental changes to your lifestyle will ultimately make the biggest difference to your health and pave the way to sustainable weight loss, so it’s important to get started. the beginning of the conversation.

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we verify authenticity and keep our content accurate, trustworthy and trustworthy.

  1. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Assess your weight and health risks.

  2. Nalini M, Sharafkhah M, Poustchi H, et al. Comparison of anthropometric indices of visceral and general fat as determinants of overall mortality and cardiovascular mortality. Arch Iran Med. 2019; 22 (6): 301-309.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Assess your weight.

  4. Ponnalagu SD, Bi X, Henry CJ. Is waist circumference more strongly associated with metabolic risk factors than waist-to-height ratio in Asians? Nutrition. 2019; 60: 30-34 doi: 10.1016 / j.nut.2018.09.005

  5. Samuel L Buckner, Paul D Loprinzi, Jeremy P Loenneke, Why don’t so many people eat breakfast? A biological point of view, American Journal of Clinical NutritionVolume 103, Issue 6, June 2016, pp. 1555–1556, doi: 10.3945 / ajcn.116.132837

  6. Takagi H, Hari Y, Nakashima K, Kuno T, Ando T. Meta-analysis of the relationship of skipping breakfast with heart disease. American Journal of Cardiology. 2019; 124 (6): 978-986. doi: 10.1016 / j.amjcard.2019.06.016

  7. How much physical activity do adults need? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read more

  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Classification of overweight and obesity according to BMI, waist circumference and associated disease risks.

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