Why does your waistline matter more than your body weight?

Body weight in simplest terms is how much you weigh on the weighing scale. This weight includes the weight of your bones, muscles, fats as well as your body water. Apart of your body weight there are several other indices that are also better indicators of your overall health and its future prospects. These indices can play a major role in defining your health status other than just your body weight. So, the next time you look forward for a fitness program or nutrition consultation program, add on another simple item in your shopping list i.e. a foldable measuring tape.

What is the waistline?

Waistline is the mid line between the bottom of your ribs and the top of your hip bone. To measure your waistline take a measuring tape; mark the center between the bottom of your rib cage and the top of your hip bone (just above the belly button) and bring the tape around this area – record this in either inches or cms. A person’s waistline is a better and a useful predictor of future health prospects rather than just body weight.

What is an ideal waistline like?

According to several research studies and organizations including the Heart Foundation, an ideal waistline should be:
  • 37 inches or less for men and
  • 35 inches or less for women
A bigger waistline may be due to excessive fat accumulation around the abdomen. This, in turn, increases the risk of certain health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc. Your waistline is one of the 4 important measures of your overall health. The other 3 measures include:
  • Waist-to-hip ratio
  • Waist to height ratio and
  • Body Mass Index (BMI)

What is waist-to-hip ratio?

This measurement compares the size of the waist with that of the hips. A high waist-to-hip ratio indicates larger amount of abdominal fats in your body. To calculate this ratio, you need to measure the waist circumference (just above the belly button) and measure the hip circumference (widest area covering the hips) and divide the two A lower waist-to-hip ratio indicates better health whereas a higher waist-to-hip ratio indicates health concerns. Studies have shown that a higher waist-to-hip ratio is associated with higher cardiovascular (heart related) deaths.

What is waist-to-height ratio?

This measurement is an indicator of the distribution of body fat. To calculate this ratio, you need to measure the waist circumference and height and then divide the waist by height and multiply by 100 A waist to height ratio of above 50% indicates that you are at a higher risk of developing obesity related diseases like type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, etc. Measurements that take waist circumference into account are usually considered better indicators of an individual’s health risk. This is because the fat that collects around the middle of the torso can be harmful to the major organs like the heart, kidneys, and the liver.

What is Body Mass Index (BMI)?

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a common tool used to categorize your body as underweight, normal, overweight or obese. It uses your body weight in kg and height in meters. The formula is simple: BMI: Weight in kg/ height in meters square This formula does not apply for children and teenagers. Hence, BMI is useful only for adults. However, there are some downsides of using this tool:
  • BMI does not take into consideration individual body components like muscle mass before categorizing them as underweight or overweight. Hence, a person who may have higher muscle mass and lower body fat may be categorized as overweight; which is actually a flaw. Similarly, a person with lower muscle mass and higher fat mass may be categorized as normal
  • BMI does not give an idea about fat mass or the distribution of fats in the body
Due to this inaccuracy it should not be the only measure to assess weight status of a person. BMI can offer a rough idea of whether or not a person is at a moderate weight, and it is useful for measuring trends in population studies but it cannot be considered as the only parameter to derive conclusions about weight.

What is the relationship between waistline and your health?

Your waistline is a predictor of a number of health issues including:
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Inflammation
Hence, it is important to take immediate measures to reduce your waistline. They include:
  • Healthy diet – which includes enough fiber, proteins, good quality fats, fluids, etc
  • Avoidance of processed, refined foods as well as sugary foods
  • Maintaining a regular exercise routine
  • Avoidance of alcohol
  • Enough good quality sleep
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