How to measure yourself
The easiest way to asses your risk of suffering from a chronic disease is to measure your waist circumference. You can also assess whether your weight is in a healthy range by using the Body Mass Index. However, BMI does have some limitations. For example, BMI does not necessarily reflect body fat distribution or describe the same degree of fatness in different population groups.
Measuring your waist
Waist measurement cut-off points
Are these waist measurements suitable for all groups?
Download a tape measure
Measuring your waistline is a simple check
- Measure directly against your skin.
- Breathe out normally.
- Make sure the tape is snug, without compressing the skin.
- Measure halfway between your lowest rib and the top of your hipbone, roughly in line with your belly button.
Waist measurement cut-off pointsFor most people, a waist measurement higher than the following 1 is associated with increased risk of chronic disease.
Increased risk:Men: more than 94 centimetres
Women: more than 80 centimetres
Greatly increased risk:Men: more than 102 centimetres
Women: more than 88 centimetres
Are these waist measurements suitable for all groups?No matter what your height or build, an increased waistline is a sign that you could be at increased risk of developing serious problems including chronic disease such as some cancers, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Waist measurements should only be used for adults to check their risk of developing a chronic disease. Measurements that indicate increased risks for children and young people have not been developed.
The waist measurements above are recommended for Caucasian men, and Caucasian and Asian women. Recommended waist measurements are yet to be determined for all ethnic groups. It is believed that they may be lower for Asian men. They are also likely to be higher for Pacific Islanders and African Americans (men and women). The limited data currently available indicates that the cut off points in Aboriginal populations appear to be similar to those in Asian populations; and the cut off points in Torres Strait Islander populations appear to be similar to those found in Pacific Islander populations.
The International Diabetes Federation has established ethnic specific values for waist circumference 2 (see table below) for when a person is defined as having metabolic syndrome —a condition when a person experiences a number of risk factors for chronic disease. Sufferers of this condition have a waist measurement in the risk range plus two out of four other risk factors (such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol). However, it is important to note that these measurements do not have universal support.
Ethnic Specific Waist Measurements for Increased Risk of Chronic Illness
|Ethnic specific values for waist circumference|
|Country/Ethnic group||Waist circumference|
In the USA, the ATP III values (102cm male; 88cm female) are likely to continue to be used for clinical purposes
Based on a Chinese, Malay and Asian-Indian population
|Ethnic South and Central Americans||Use South Asian recommendations until more specific data are available|
|Sub-Saharan Africans||Use European recommendations until more specific data are available|
|Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East (Arab) populations||Use European recommendations until more specific data are available|
|*In future epidemiological studies of populations of Europid origin, prevalence should be given using both European and North American cut-points to allow better comparisons.
**Originally different values were proposed for Japanese people but new data support the use of the values shown above.
Talk with your doctor to learn more about signs that you could be at risk of chronic disease and what you can do about them.
Download a fact sheet on the importance of waist measurements. Translated fact sheets are also available in languages other than English.
Download a tape measureIf you don’t have a tape measure handy, you can download a tape measure so that you can print it off and measure your waist circumference in the privacy of your own home:
Tape measure for Women (PDF 250 KB)
Tape measure for Men (PDF 285 KB)
Note: Make sure your 'page scaling' options are set to 'none' when printing the tape measure, to ensure that the tape measure is printed correctly.
2International Diabetes Federation. IDF consensus worldwide definition of the metabolic syndrome. Ethnic specific values for waist circumference.
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