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Why is my waist size important?

Your risk of some health problems is affected by where your body fat is stored, as well as by your weight. Carrying too much fat around your middle (waist) can increase your risk of developing conditions such as:

Not sure if you're overweight?

Use our body mass index (BMI) calculator to work out if you're a healthy weight.

Measuring your waist

Measuring your waist is a good way to check you're not carrying too much fat around your stomach, which can raise your risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke.

You can have a healthy BMI and still have excess tummy fat – meaning you're still at risk of developing these diseases.

To measure your waist:

  • find the bottom of your ribs and the top of your hips
  • wrap a tape measure around your waist, midway between these points
  • breathe out naturally before taking the measurement

Regardless of your height or BMI, you should try to lose weight if your waist is:

  • 94cm (37ins) or more for men
  • 80cm (31.5ins) or more for women

You are at very high risk and you should contact your GP if your waist is:

  • 102cm (40ins) or more for men
  • 88cm (34ins) or more for women

Read What's your BMI? to find out more about BMI for adults and children.

Losing weight around the stomach

Most people who are overweight find their excess weight is down to eating more energy (calories) than they burn.

Weight gain occurs when we regularly put more calories into our bodies than we use. Over time, that excess energy is stored by the body as fat.

If you're trying to lose weight, it's a good idea to eat less and be more active.

Read more information about how to lose weight, including advice on exercise and understanding calories.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 22/09/2016

Next review due: 22/09/2019