It is such a clever play on words but it is true, “ A waist is a terrible thing to mind!” You mind your clothes as they do not fit as well as they used to. You mind seeing your reflection in the mirror, because you do not like what you see. Then you mind going to the doctor’s office because you might find out you have a chronic disease. Unfortunately (or fortunately), you have to mind your waist. It is an integral part of a series of important measurements your health care professional uses to determine if your weight is putting your health at risk. Some measures (such as blood work) are complicated, requiring technology to best access them. However, the most simplest, yet powerful measures utilized in medical settings can be done in the luxury and privacy your home, using ”tools” you probably have somewhere in your house. So what are these measures?
Weight. For some, stepping on a scale and waiting for a number to appear can be torture. However, weight is a measure that you have to know. Research indicates that the higher the weight, the greater the risk for developing chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, heart, lung and joint problems as well as some forms of cancer. If the numbers have been creeping up, it may be time to make some health and lifestyle changes. So, how do you know if you are overweight? Healthcare professionals use a measure known as Body Mass Index (BMI) to determine if your weight is healthy for your height.
Body Mass Index (BMI). BMI is a ratio measuring your weight in relation to your height. (If you have not had your height measured within the last year, grab a tape measure and get an accurate height). Although it is constantly being critiqued for being somewhat inaccurate in some populations (such as athletes and the elderly), this ratio is the least expensive method of estimating body fat and disease risk.
To Calculate Your BMI:
1. Obtain an accurate weight and height measurement
2. Plug in the number in a BMI calculator ( http://www.bmicalculator.org/) OR use the following formula:
Metric: weight in centimeters/ height in cm²
Standard: [weight (in pounds) / height (in inches) x height (in inches)] x 703
The answer that you get is your BMI and is interpreted as follows:
Underweight: BMI below 18.5
Normal weight: 18.5 to 24.9
Overweight: 25.0 to 29.9
Obese: 30.0 and above.
So, what does all this mean?
A BMI measurement outside of the healthy weight range (18.5- 24.9) puts your health at risk (even if you are underweight) and this risk is further increased if you engage in high risk behaviors such as lack of exercise, smoking tobacco and consuming diets that are high in calories, fat and sugar. To minimize development of disease, aim for a weight in the healthy range by exercising regularly, eating a well-balanced diet and avoid smoking.
Studies show that where you carry your weight can significantly impact your risk for developing chronic diseases. Weight carried around the waist poses more health problems than weight carried in the thighs and hips. Waist circumference is the distance around your waist. The higher the number, the greater the disease risk. Before we going any further, allow me to clarify the ”waist.” With all the fashion faux-paux out there, many teenagers, (and adults) wear their clothes hanging far below their natural waist. To find your waist, stand with feet planted and feel the area where your hip bone ends. That area which is almost level with your naval is your waist.
To measure waist circumference:
1.Remove any clothing around the waist area to allow for a bare abdomen measurement.
2. Place tape measure around your abdomen in the area above the hip bone, level with the naval.
3. Ensure the tape is not too tight on the skin and that it is parallel to the floor.
4. Breathe in, relax, exhale, and take your measurement.
What’s a healthy waist circumference?
Women: An ideal waist circumference is less than 35 inches (88 cm). A number over 35 inches (88 cm) increases risk for weight related chronic diseases, even if the BMI is normal.
Men: An ideal waist circumference is less than 40 inches (102 cm). A number over 40 inches (102 cm) increases risk for chronic disease, even if the BMI is normal.
So, should you really mind your waist?
The truth of the matter is that minding the waist goes beyond worrying about how your clothes fit and how you look in pictures. It goes beyond society’s expectations and definition of beauty. From a health and nutritional perspective, minding your waist is about adding quality years to your life and making sure that the machine that you have to carry you through the journey is well maintained. Excess fat might not allow you to carry out this journey to the fullest as it leads to various ailments and diseases. Knowing your weight, waist circumference and BMI is the first step in creating a healthy you and stopping the constant minding of the waist. Once you know your measurements, you can begin to develop goals and strategies that will allow you to live life to the fullest while reducing your risk for developing chronic disease.