The Waist to Hip Ratio: a Reliable Indicator of Overall Health.

Measuring Waist Line The waist to hip ratio is one of several body mass composition measurements used to determine and individual's body fatness. This ratio is simply your waist measurement divided by your hip measurement. A multi-country study (27,000 people from 52 countries), conducted by the Interheart Group, indicates that the it may actually be a better predictor of heart attack than the body mass index (BMI).

The standard body mass index has become the measurement of choice used by many healthcare professionals to evaluate a person's body mass composition (and thus a predictor of the likelihood of chronic illnesses like heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke). Let's see why a comparison of your waist to your hip size might be a better indicator of your risk for illness.

Learn How to
Measure Your Waist to Hip Ratio.

Cloth Tape Measure First, you'll need a cloth tape measure like those used by tailors. Measure your waist circumference at the narrowest point. You want to find your smallest waist size. Next, measure your hips at the widest point, typically around your buttocks. Divide your waist measurment by your hip measurement and the result is your waist to hip ratio.

Is Your Body
Shape an Apple or a Pear?

The ratio of your waist to hip yields a number which gives healthcare workers an idea of your body shape. A low ratio (bigger hips) means a general body type known as pear-shaped. A high ratio means an apple shape (bigger belly). The more dangerous of the two body shapes is the apple. This is due to the fact that more fat (known as visceral fat) is being stored around your mid-section.

An excess of visceral fat is extremely dangerous. It surrounds your vital organs and can lead to a whole host of serious health issues. If you haven't already done so, go to my page on ideal waist size to read about the dangers of visceral fat.

Attractive Female Waist Line As an interesting cultural side-note, a woman's waist to hip ratio correlates with how attractive she is perceived by males in her culture. Different cultures find different body shapes, and thus different waist to hip ratios, more desirable.

In sub-Saharan countries, the ratio that is perceived as most attractive is 0.6 (more pear-shaped). In western countries, the ratio that is perceived as most attractive is 0.7, and in Asian countries it is 0.9.

What is the Ideal Ratio?

According to WHO Steps (a surveillance organization of the World Health Organization), a safe wasit to hip ratio is:

  • For Women - 0.7 or less.
  • For Men - 0.9 or less.

So, what is considered to be an unsafe ratio?

  • For Women - greater than 0.85.
  • For Men - greater than 0.9.

A ratio of 1.0 or greater indicates significant visceral fat and obesity and is considered to be very unhealthy for anyone!

Use All 3 Measures
to Monitor Your Health.

Whatever measurement you use to determine if you're in an ideal weight range (BMI, waist size, or waist to hip ratio), remember that it's best to look at all these measures in combination to get the most accurate picture of your body mass composition, and how it may affect your long term health prospects.

Weight Range Pages

Healthy Weight Scale
Weight Charts

Body Mass Index Definition
Calculate Your
Body Mass Index

BMI for Children Sign
Body Mass
Index for Children

Proper diet and exercise will go a long way toward helping you achieve healthy measurements. Be sure to check out the rest of this site for all kinds of information about eating and exercise - I want to help you get and stay in shape. And, please sign up for my free monthly newsletter. You'll receive recipes and tips to help you live the best life possible (plus the chance to win a great product each month)!

RN, Certified Wellness Coach

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