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Diabetes risk and waist measurement

You might be wondering what waist measurement has to do with your risk of type 2 diabetes. Or what a healthy waist size is.

Well, on this page we will explain why it is so important. Our video with Rohit and Usha will show you how to measure your waist properly. 

If you find that your waist size is too large, we also have lots of information on how you can reduce it.

Waist measurement


Why is your waist size important?

Carrying extra weight around your middle means fat can build up around organs, like your liver and pancreas. This can cause something called insulin resistance as the insulin can’t get through the fat. This means the insulin your body produces doesn’t work properly, and that increases your chance of having high blood glucose (sugar).

You should make sure your overall weight and body mass index (BMI) are healthy, but even if they are, you may still be at risk of type 2 diabetes if you have a large waist measurement

Measuring your waist

Rohit and Usha can show you how to measure your waist below.


  • Measuring your waist takes less than a minute and all you need is a tape measure. You can always ask a friend or family member to help you as well if you can’t do it on your own.
  • Your waist size is not usually the same as your jean size. Because of our jean size, we sometimes think our waist measurement is lower than it actually is.
  • Find the top of your hip bone and the bottom of your ribcage. In the middle of these two points is where you need to measure. For many people, the belly button is a good guide, but this might not be the case for you, so it’s best to find that midpoint between your ribcage and hip.
  • If you’re still not sure, Rohit and Usha can show you how to do it in our video.

What is a healthy waist size?

This all depends on your gender and ethnicity. For a healthy measurement you need to aim to be less than:

  • 80cm (31.5in) for all women
  • 94cm (37in) for most men
  • 90cm (35in) for South Asian men.

This is because you have a higher risk of type 2 diabetes if you are of black or South Asian background. We have lots of information on your risk of diabetes, and what you can do to reduce it.

How to reduce your waist measurement

Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes when it comes to reducing your waist size. It comes down to eating well and moving more. Start by setting some realistic, achievable changes to suit your lifestyle.

You can become more active by making small changes to your lifestyle. You can fit them around your daily life and in your budget. Here are three top tips to help make your life more active: 

  1. Set clear goals to move more – setting goals can help you break down what you need to do and how to do it. This could be aiming to walk more, taking up a new activity or learning a new skill such as swimming or running.
  2. Plan ahead – we all have busy lives, so try to plan what you’re going to eat and what activity you're going to do this week, fitting it around your social life. You can always squeeze in an activity during your lunch hour or go for walk instead of getting another form of transport.
  3. Start by making small changes – it's time to put your plan into action. Start small and do something you enjoy. Doing just a little bit more each day will still make a difference. It also means you're more likely to stick to it. Just remember, small changes to your routine won’t have such a big impact, so start small and grow.

Weight-loss planner

"I keep a daily diary and log my weight and activity. It keeps me accountable and focused."

Edward Morrison, who lost over four stone - read his story.

You can download My weight-loss planner (PDF, 534KB) to set goals and track your progress. By putting a plan in place and noting down your progess, you'll be able to see the positive changes you're making.

We have lots more information on living a healthy lifestyle and reducing your risk of diabetes, and you can always speak to us if you need some help.

You can also find out more about your risk of diabetes using our know your risk tool.

Get support

You're not alone in this. We all need a helping hand from time to time and the good news is, there's support out there.

Talk to your GP about local services to help you move more and eat well. And tell your family and friends about your action plan – you could even get them to join in. Doing it with someone else can help you both stay motivated.

Remember you can get in touch with our Helpline for more information or support. We also have recipes, meal plans and stories to inspire you.

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