Why Your Doctor Might Measure Your Waistline At Your Next Checkup

Next time you visit the doctor, don't be surprised if your medical team measures your height, weight, and waistline. New research states that your waist circumference, specifically abdominal obesity, can be an indicator and increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.

According to the American Heart Association, although body mass index (BMI) is typically used to determine what your target weight is and your risk for obesity, your waist measurement can determine your cardiovascular health even if your BMI is within a healthy weight range. Experts say that even if you are a relatively thin person, if you have a protruding stomach it could be visceral adipose tissue — when excess fat forms around the body's mid-section and organs.

"Studies that have examined the relationship between abdominal fat and cardiovascular outcomes confirm that visceral fat is a clear health hazard," Dr. Tiffany Powell-Wiley, chief of the Social Determinants of Obesity and Cardiovascular Risk Laboratory in the Division of Intramural Research at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health said in a news release.

How to measure and monitor your waist size

Obesity increases the risk of coronary artery disease and death due to cardiovascular disease, and also contributes to health conditions like high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and sleep disorders. Researchers say these risks highlight why waist measurement monitoring may be so important. 

You can check your waist fat by wrapping a tape measure around your waist at the top of your hipbone, exhaling normally and measuring, keeping the tape parallel to the floor and snug across the skin. Some benchmark measurements for those who may have higher risks are non-pregnant women with a waist size greater than 35 inches and men with a waist size of 40 inches or more (via CNN). But the most accurate way to measure your visceral fat level is through an MRI or CT scan, so it is best to discuss your concerns with a health professional.

So what can you do? Reducing calories while maintaining a healthy well-balanced diet and striving for 150 minutes physical activity a week, specifically aerobic exercise, can reduce your abdominal fat, according to the American Heart Association. A combination of exercise and dietary change can also reduce abdominal obesity without weight loss. Always talk with your doctor before making any drastic changes to your eating or exercise plan, or if you have any concerns about your weight or waistline.