Body measurements help assess health, dietary status, and disease risk
Most of us are familiar with anthropometric measurements – even if we’re not familiar with the term 😉 – these are simply body measurements like height, weight, and head or waist circumference (1).
These measurements can be good indicators of an individual’s nutritional status and the likelihood of developing chronic conditions.
For example, a high waist circumference (abdominal fat) is associated with an increased risk of developing conditions like hypertension, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease (2) (3).
Two commonly used body measurements
Knowing how much we weigh can help us determine whether we are at a healthy weight for our height.
A common weight to height measurement is the Body Mass Index (BMI).
BMI estimates an individual’s level of body fat.
You can calculate your BMI by dividing your weight in pounds by your height in inches squared and then multiplying by a conversion factor of 703 (weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703). For example: weight = 150 lbs, height = 65”: [150 ÷ (65)2] x 703 = 24.96 BMI
Of course, there are many online BMI calculators that you can use as well, such as the one offered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services here.
BMI numbers – what’s normal?
The four main categories for BMI are:
Underweight = <18.5
Normal weight = 18.5 - 24.9
Overweight = 25 – 29.9
Obesity = BMI of 30 or greater
An above normal BMI constitutes a higher risk for disease, and the higher the BMI the greater the risk for conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, sleep apnea, and even certain cancers like breast, colon, and gallbladder cancer (5).
Although BMI can be a useful tool to help us determine a healthy weight, it does have limitations. For example, if you are a muscular person (bodybuilder) your BMI may indicate an unhealthy weight to height, but you may not carry unhealthy levels of fat on your body. Muscle weighs more than fat, so if you are a muscular person you will want to use other anthropometric measurements to help determine your health risks.
Where we carry excess weight matters!
The way fat is distributed in the body matters when it comes to our health.
Two types of fat distribution, android (apple shape), and gynoid (pear shape) show different health outcomes when studied.
Carrying excess weight in the abdominal region (android) is linked to a greater risk for diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes (6).
One study found that increased abdominal fat (android) significantly increased the risk for elevated total cholesterol and triglycerides in men and total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in women which increased the risk for cardiovascular disease (6).
This same study found that increased fat carried on the hips and thighs (gynoid) was positively correlated with total cholesterol in men, but in women, this type of fat distribution was found to be better in terms of triglyceride and HDL cholesterol levels (6).
Measuring waist circumference is easy!
Waist circumference is an excellent tool to help us determine health risks because, according to the CDC, abdominal obesity has been associated with major chronic diseases and all-cause mortality (7).
For example, abdominal fat triggers the release of chemical messengers like TNF-a and IL-6 which can lead to chronic inflammation, angiotensin which can lead to hypertension, and leptin and resistin which can lead to type 2 diabetes (8).
Here are the waist circumference numbers that indicate greater health risks:
Men: greater than or equal to a 40-inch waist
Women: greater than or equal to a 35-inch waist
Using both of these body measurements together, BMI and waist circumference can help us gain a better understanding of our overall health risks when it comes to chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
If you would like to talk to someone about achieving your optimal weight, you can contact us here.