What does my waist measurement mean?

When it comes to health risks, where you carry your weight is important according to the National Institutes of Health. People who carry excess weight in the stomach area - known as an apple shape - have greater health risks than those who carry extra pounds in their hips and thighs - a pear shape. Too much weight around the waist puts you at greater risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and certain types of cancer.

To see whether you're carrying too much weight around your waist, use a tape measure to measure around your natural waist just above your navel. Be sure the tape is snug. The weight around your abdomen is putting you at increased health risk if:

  • you are a woman and your waist measures 35 inches or more
  • you are a man and your waist measures 40 inches or more

Another easy way to see if you're carrying too much weight around your waist is to measure around your waist and around your hips or buttocks. If your waist is larger than your hips, you need to lose weight. But don't go on waist measurement alone. If your waist is within the guidelines but your BMI is moderate to high risk, you should still work to lose the extra pounds.