What's The Best Measure Of Health?

By Dale Cooke

Accredited Practising Dietitian


Scales -croppedMany people who are working hard to manage their weight tend to worry about the number on the scale. However, how much you weigh isn't always a good indicator of whether you are healthy. A much better number to consider is your waist measurement and your shape.


Research shows if your body is apple shaped you hold more fat around your waist and have more fat permeating your organs. This means you are at greater risk of developing chronic conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and some cancers. It is also one of the indicators for developing insulin resistance, which leads to type 2 diabetes.


Where you store your fat is largely determined by hormones and genetics. Look at the shape of your relatives - do you have similar body shapes? Men typically store fat around their waist. Young women store fat primarily on their hips and thighs, which is a healthier place to store fat. As you age the change in hormones at menopause in women result in fat being stored around your waist.


So what is a healthy waistline? Measure your waist circumference half way between your lowest rib and the top of your hip bone, keeping the measuring tape straight - either do it in front of a mirror or ask someone to assist you. Then check the table below. People with different ethnicity have slightly different target waist circumferences.


For women     Risk
Caucasian, Europid Indian (South Asian), Chinese, Japanese Maori, Pacific Islander  
80-88 cm Less than 80 cm Less than 88 cm Normal
More than 88 cm More than 80 cm More than 88 cm Higher


For men     Risk
Caucasian, Europid Indian (South Asian), Chinese, Japanese Maori, Pacific Islander  
94-102 cm Less than 90 cm Less than 102  cm Normal
More than 102 cm More than 90 cm More than 102 cm Higher


Now you've measured your waist and understand your risk it might be time to do something about it. How do you reduce your waistline? Ideally, you lose fat. It's not easy and requires perseverance. Cutting back on over processed foods while doing a little bit more exercise is a good way to go.


Call 1300 136 588 to talk to a health professional for more ideas or ask your GP for a referral to an Accredited Practising Dietitian or an Exercise Physiologist for hints on what you could be doing. Check the events pages for details on courses such as Ready Set Go, DESMOND, Carb Smart and Shop Smart.

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