Understanding Weight and Waist Circumference for Improved Heart Health

By Samantha Sullivan-Holness

Understanding Weight and Waist Circumference for Improved Heart Health

Excess body weight and an increased waist circumference play a role in determining your risk of developing heart disease. In fact, when we carry around excess weight, especially in the waist area, we increase our risk of heart disease. This is because, according to the Cleveland Clinic, excess body weight increases your risk of experiencing high blood pressure and heart failure. When you carry around excess weight, your body requires more blood to provide oxygen and nutrients, which results in increased blood pressure. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, puts you at an increased risk for a heart attack. Further, carrying around excess weight may also affect your blood cholesterol levels. When your blood cholesterol levels are elevated, especially your total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and triglyceride levels, you are also at an increased risk of heart disease. When you know how your weight and waist circumference affect your heart health and understand how to determine your risk, you can take steps to improve your heart health.

There are two factors that you can use to assess your risk; your body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference. It is best to use both in order to gain a full understanding of how your weight and waist circumference affect your health.

  • Body mass index (BMI): BMI is a simple calculation where you input your height and weight. A BMI is a quick way to determine where your weight falls in relation to a BMI reference table. It is important to keep in mind that if you have more muscle mass, you will weigh more since muscle weighs more than fat, and as a result may fall in a BMI category that is higher and a less accurate risk level. Further, if you have lost muscle mass then you will weigh less, and as a result may fall in a BMI category that is lower and a less accurate risk level. To calculate your BMI visit the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute BMI calculator, then refer to the BMI reference table below:

Weight Category

BMI Category

Underweight

Under 18.5

Normal Weight

18.5-24.9

Overweight

25.0-29.9

Obesity

30.0 and above

 

  • Waist circumference (WC): WC is a measurement that is taken around your waist at your abdominal level. To accurately measure your waist, stand up straight, place a tape measure around your middle area, level with your abdomen, just above your hip bones. Breathe in, then as you breathe out measure your waist. Women are at an increased risk of heart disease if waist size is greater than 35 inches. Men are at an increased risk of heart disease if waist size is greater than 40 inches. If you do not have a tape measure available, a quick way to evaluate your risk of heart disease is to assess the shape of your body. If your body is in the shape of an apple versus a pear you may be at an increased risk of heart disease.

For a more in-depth review of waist circumference and cardiometabolic risk, view this article from the American Diabetes Association

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Orignially published on August 26, 2020, updated on August 26, 2020

Topic: Diabetes Management

Samantha Sullivan-Holness

About Samantha Sullivan-Holness

Samantha Sullivan-Holness, MS, RD is a health coach and senior team lead with Cecelia Health. Samantha genuinely cares about client and coach success. Samantha partners with clients to achieve their health goals and provides guidance to coaches to maximize their potential. Samantha most enjoys being active outdoors.