American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise

Did you know that extra abdominal fat raises your risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease? Measuring your waist circumference is a quick and easy way to know if you are at increased risk for these life-threatening conditions.

How to determine your health risk using waist circumference:

1. Get the measurement.
  • Using a non-elastic measuring tape, wrap the tape around your abdomen at the smallest point at or near the navel (belly button).
  • Pull the tape tight enough to keep it in position, but not so tight as to create an indentation in the skin. 
  • If you do not have a large enough measuring tape, use a piece of string and measure the length of the string with a ruler.
2. Learn your risk.
  • You are at high risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and stroke if:

  • Most of your weight is around your mid-section versus your hips
  • Your waist circumference is:
  • Women-greater than 35 inches (86 cm)
  • Men-greater than 40 inches (102 cm)
  • If you have a “high-risk” waist circumference, yet still have a 
  • normal body mass index, you are considered at high risk for the 
  • above conditions.
3. Take action. 
If you have excess abdominal fat, you can begin to reduce your disease risk by losing just 5-10% of your body weight!  Here are a few tips to get started:
  • Start an exercise plan. It can be as simple as investing in a pedometer and setting a goal number of steps each day. Aim to build up to at least 5,000 steps per day and you’ll be well on your way to improve your health 
  • To effectively lose weight (and keep it off!), you need to make changes to the way you eat. Start with a self-evaluation. What are one or two easy and doable changes that you could make (and stick with) to decrease the number of calories in your day? For example, a switch to 2% from whole milk, or forgoing the mayonnaise on your sandwich could get you off to a great start. 
  • Ask yourself how ready you are to make these changes, and how confident you are that you will be successful? Then, set up a plan to push forward. If you need help to get started, consider talking with your health care provider or a health coach.

Additional Resources

American Council on Exercise 

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

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