Body mass index, or BMI, and waist size can both provide clues about your health status and risk for developing certain medical problems. Knowing your BMI can let you know whether you need to take steps to reduce your body fat ratio. While reducing fat just around your middle is not possible, burning fat overall will help you reach your goal of a trimmer waistline and lower BMI.
Unhealthy Belly Fat
A little belly pooch may be more dangerous than you think. The visceral fat, or the fat that collects around your organs, can produce chemicals that may damage your heart or and blood vessels. According to MayoClinic.com, people with bigger stomachs are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and some forms of cancer. Your BMI and waist measurement can help to determine if you have too much belly fat.
Body mass index uses height and weight to determine the amount of body fat that a person carries. A person with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 has a normal body weight. A person with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is considered obese and more likely to have health problems related to fat. You can use an online BMI calculator to determine your body mass index or you calculate it manually. To find your BMI, divide your weight in pounds by your height in inches squared and multiply that number by 703. For example, if you are 150 pounds and 65 inches tall, you would divide 150 by 65 squared then multiply by 703 for a BMI of 24.96.
Though BMI is a good indication of your overall fat levels, a waist measurement is also a reliable way to determine the amount of fat in your stomach area. For women, a waist measurement of 34 inches or less is a healthy size. A waistline that measures 35 inches or greater can mean that you have too much fat in your mid-section. Your waist-to-hip ratio is also an important factor. The World Health Organization says that women with a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.85 or more are three times more at risk of developing coronary heart disease. To find your waist-to-hip ratios, divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement. For example, if your waist is 32 inches and your hips are 43 inches, you would divide 32 by 43 for a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.74.
While BMI, waist measurements and waist-to-hip ratio are helpful for determining how fit you are, they can have some drawbacks. For example, BMI doesn't take into account a person's muscle mass. So, people who are particularly muscular may have a high BMI, even though they are very lean. Research by the Department of Medicine, New York University School of Medicine in New York has also found that many more people may be obese than the BMI standards indicate. Also, waist measurement guidelines don't take into account the person's height. If you are very tall, you may have a larger waistline, even if you don't have a large amount of stomach fat.
- MayoClinic.com: Belly Fat Associated with Increased Risk of Developing Serious Health Problems
- CDC: About BMI for Adults
- University of New Mexico: Waist-to-Hip Ratio, Waist Circumference and BMI
- World Health Organization: Cardiovascular Diseases
- Plosone: The Utility of Body Mass Index (BMI), Percent Body Fat, and Leptin
Since 1998 Alina McKee has written for dozens of traditional and online beauty, fashion, health and parenting publications including Pregnancy.org, Mama Health and Real Beauty. As a professional artist, her articles about these subjects have been used in magazines and websites around the globe. McKee has a diploma in fine art from Stratford Art School.