Ditch the scales! The size of your waistband could be key health indicator

Feb 09, 2020
Measuring your waist could be the answer to reducing your health problems. Source: Getty.

From standing on the scales every week to taking half an hour to complete full body measurements, understanding what actually constitutes a ‘healthy bodyweight’ can be difficult. However, research has now found that waistband measurements might just be the key to it all.

A recent article, compiled by Robert Ross and 16 fellow experts, published in Nature Reviews Endocrinology has argued that although waist circumference measurements are critical in determining an individual’s healthy weight, the method is often overlooked by health professionals.

The vital measurements are required to properly identify and therefore reduce potential risks such as obesity and cardiometabolic diseases. When used in conjunction with body mass index (BMI), the results can help to improve the management of health risks more accurately.

BMI has long been the primary way of determining an individual’s health, and is calculated by dividing their weight in kilograms by the square of their height in metres. However, this generalised measure of health has a number of proven discrepancies including the lack of consideration for distribution of weight, varying body types and muscle density.

Above all, BMI fails to address the level of fat on someone’s stomach, otherwise known as abdominal adiposity, which experts say is strongly associated with cardiovascular mortality and can exclusively be assessed through measuring waist circumference.

However, despite decades of research supporting the unprecedented benefits of understanding and evaluating waist circumference, the vital sign is heavily ignored by health professionals with experts claiming that doctors continuously fail to complete and record measurements routinely in clinical practice.

The authors of the report argued that the results of a BMI test on their own were not enough to classify someone as obese or overweight unless they were paired with the measurements of the abdomen. The study called for all health professionals to be properly trained in how to measure waist circumference to avoid negligence or misdiagnosing patients in the future.

Losing weight or decreasing a waist measurement is said to be the key in reducing adverse health risks which the experts suggested could be achieved by routine exercise and a healthy diet. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, men with a waist measurement of 94cm and women with a 80cm waist have an increased risk of developing obesity-related chronic diseases.

Obesity is a leading risk factor for ill-health in Australia with a staggering 67 per cent of adults in 2017 and 2018 being classified as overweight or obese. In the same year, Australia also had the eighth highest proportion of overweight or obese adults aged 15 and over and in 2015, overweight and obesity made up for 8.4 per cent of the total burden of disease in the country.

This data is currently based exclusively on BMI which acts as the internationally recognised standard for classifying healthy weight. The scale ranges from 18 which is considered underweight to 45 which is obese (class III).

Along with the overgeneralisation of BMI, experts also deemed it as an insufficient form of measurement to be conducted on its own due to its lack of evidence for evaluating cardiometabolic risk. This can be seen in some case where those who develop diseases such as type 2 diabetes mellitus or certain cardiovascular diseases are in fact metabolically healthy and show no obvious signs of being obese or overweight.

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Do you do waist measurements? Do you record them when trying to lose weight?

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