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How your waist size affects your health risk

BMI, Waist circumference and Ethnicity:

Health risks should be considered by taking both of these into account, in the context of your ethnicity (some of us have increased genetic predisposition to metabolic disease based on our ethnicity)

The correct way to Measure Your Waist Circumference

  1. Stand and place a tape measure around your middle, just above your hip bones
  2. Make sure tape is horizontal around the waist
  3. Keep the tape snug around the waist, but not compressing the skin
  4. Measure your waist just after you breathe out

This image shows the level at which you should measure your waist (ie., not too high up where your ribs are!)


South East Asian ethnicity means increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes at lower BMI than Europeans

BMI Obesity classification Risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease
<=18.5 (underweight)UnderweightNo increased risk
18.5 - 22.9 (healthy weight)Healthy Weight Range No increased risk
23 - 24.9 (overweight)Overweight Increasing risk
Over 25 Obese High risk

And at a lower waist measure than Europeans

Ethnic group / Geography Male or Female Waist size for Low Risk Waist size for High Risk Waist size for Very High Risk
European Male<94cm (37in)94-102cm (37-40in)>102cm (40in)
Female <80cm (31.5in)80-88cm (31.5-34.6in)>88cm (34.6in)
South Asian, Afro-Caribbean, Japanese, Chinese Male<90cm (34.5in)***90cm and above
(35.4in and above)
Female <80cm (31.5in)***80cm and above
(31.5in and above)

*** Note that there is no High risk correlation for waist size in Asians. The risk goes from Low risk to Very High risk at the cut off levels shown in the table.


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