By now, most of us know the importance of knowing your Body Mass Index, or BMI, which is a body fat measure based on your height and weight. But there's increasing evidence that an equally important measure of risk could be your waist size.
A new study published in the journal PLoS Medicine has found that the larger the size of your waist, the greater your risk of Type 2 diabetes, which is on the increase in this country.
The study by British researchers looked at the association between the size of the waist, BMI and Type 2 diabetes. The researchers found that in women, waist size was a stronger risk factor for diabetes than BMI.
That's important because by measuring waist size, doctors could find out which women are most at risk of getting Type 2 diabetes and counsel them to lose weight and exercise in order to lower their risk.
The doctors don't know why waist size is associated with diabetes, but this study is one of many that have pointed to the importance of this measure, especially after menopause.
Some of that belly fat is subcutaneous fat - the same as the fat in your buttocks or thighs - but some of it is visceral fat, which is close to the organs in your abdominal area.
Lab studies of visceral fat have found that it behaves differently from abdominal fat and may be a greater risk to your health.
If your waist size is more than 35 inches (in women) or 40 inches (in men), you are at higher risk. The National Institutes of Health also has a great BMI calculator and explanation of this measure.