Waist is a better health signpost than weight

Friday, 28 August 2020

Many people work very hard to manage their weight and worry about the number on the scale. That number isn’t always a good indicator of whether we’re healthy.  What’s a better indicator for our health?  Let’s look at our shape.

Research shows if our body is apple-shaped we hold more fat around our waist and have more fat permeating our organs.  This means we are at greater risk of developing chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and some cancers.  It is also one of the indicators for developing insulin resistance, which leads to type 2 diabetes.

Where we store our fat is largely determined by hormones and our genetics.  Look at the shape of your relatives – do you have similar body shapes?  Men typically store fat around their waist.  Young women store fat primarily on their hips and thighs which is a healthier place to store fat.  As we age the change in hormones at menopause in women results in fat being stored around our waists.

So what is a healthy waistline?  Measure your waist circumference half way between your lowest rib and the top of your hip bone, keeping the measuring tape straight – either do it in front of a mirror or ask someone to assist you.  Then check the table below.  People with different ethnicity have slightly different target waist circumferences.

For womenRisk
Caucasian, EuropidIndian (South Asian), Chinese, JapaneseMaori, Pacific Islander
80-88cmLess than 80cmLess than 88cmNormal
More than 88cmMore than 80cmMore than 88cmHigher
For menRisk
Caucasian, EuropidIndian (South Asian), Chinese, JapaneseMaori, Pacific Islander
94-102cmLess than 90cmLess than 102cmNormal
More than 102cmMore than 90cmMore than 102cmHigher

Now you’ve measured your waist and understand your risk it might be time to do something about it.

How do we reduce our waistline?  Ideally, we lose fat.  It’s not easy and requires perseverance.  Cutting back on some of those over processed not very nutritious foods while doing a little bit more exercise is a good way to go.

Ask your GP for a referral to an Accredited Practising Dietitian and an Exercise Physiologist for hints on what you could be doing.

By Dale Cooke

Accredited Practising Dietitian

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