Epidemiologists, or researchers who study how illnesses develop, agree that avoiding obesity will also help you dodge many age-related diseases, whether you're male or female. The US military follows specific height and weight guidelines for both men and women, but most public health agencies use either body mass index (BMI), waist circumference measurements, or waist-to-hip ratios as guidelines to optimal health.
Body Mass Index: For example, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends determining your body mass index, using your height and weight. You can find the CDC's online calculator here, or by finding it on this chart.
If your BMI is:
- Between 18.5 — 24.9, you are considered to be in the normal or healthy weight range.
- Between 25.0 — 29.9, you are considered overweight
- 30.0 or higher, you are considered obese
A BMI calculation has some shortcomings, such as not accounting for different types of body composition. A very muscular person might have a higher BMI but not have too much fat on his or her body, for example. The body mass index calculation does provide you with a generally healthy weight range for your height.
Waist circumference: Since many obesity-related illnesses are more likely if you carry more fat on your belly, the CDC warns that your waist circumference should not exceed:
- 40 inches (88 cm) if you're male
- 35 inches (77 cm) if you're a non-pregnant female
Waist-to-hip ratio: Using a ratio of waist circumference to hip size is another way of determining whether you're an ideal size — one that may be a better predictor of longevity than BMI. In a 2009 article published in the Annals of Epidemiology, a team of researchers from the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California found waist-to-hip ratios were correlated with mortality, whereas BMI measurements were not.
Our body shapes tend to change over time, even with no increase in overall weight. Taking measurements of waist circumference periodically, and adjusting your calorie intake and exercise level over time will help you
Aim for a Healthy Weight. US NIH National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Public Information Sheet. Accessed January 11, 2013.
Assessing Your Weight: How Can I Tell If I'm at a Healthy Weight? US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Public Information Sheet. Accessed January 11, 2013.
Preethi Srikanthan, Teresa E Seeman, and Arun S Karlamangla. "Waist-Hip-Ratio as a Predictor of All-Cause Mortality in High-Functioning Older Adults." Ann Epidemiol. 2009 October; 19(10): 724–731.