Waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) is a simple health calculation that looks at the proportion of fat stored on your body around your waist and hip. Why is this important? Abdominal obesity or having a beer belly is much worse for your health as fat stored around the waist and organs correlates with poor health, heart disease risk, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
Most people store their body fat in two distinct ways:
1) around your middle (the apple shape)
2) around your hips (the pear shape).
For most people, the apple shape or carrying extra weight around the middle places them at a higher health risks than carrying extra weight around their hips or thighs or the pear shape. Keep in mind that this is just one assessment that is used in measuring overall health risk. Overall obesity, however, is still of greater risk than where fat is stored on your body. Other important measurements are your overall waist circumference (see our article on waist girth measures), Body Mass Index (BMI), and percentage body fat.
Waist circumference was measured around the narrowest point between ribs and hips when viewed from the front after exhaling. Hip circumference was measured at the point where the buttocks extended the maximum, when viewed from the side. Then, simply divide your waist measure by your hip measure to get a decimal ratio eg 0.85 and check on the table below.
|Males ||Females ||Rating / Risk |
|< 0.85 ||< 0.75 ||Low – good result|
|0.85 – 0.89 ||0.75 – 0.79 ||Below average - good result|
|0.90 – 0.94 ||0.80 – 0.84 ||Average|
|0.95 – 0.99 ||0.85 – 0.89 ||Higher than desirable result – increased health risk|
|> 0.99 ||> 0.89 ||High risk of lifestyle-related disease|
Another common measure is your body mass index, or BMI (weight in kilograms divided by the square of the height in metres) is another measure of health risk and often used by organisations such as the World Health Organization as the most useful measure of obesity. However, it can be a crude index that does not take into account the distribution of body fat, resulting in variability in different individuals and populations eg athletes carry a lot of lean muscle mass and might be indexed as 'overweight'.
To find out more about waist to hip ratio, or living a long, healthy, and happy life contact us!