A 2006 Interheart study included data from 27,098 people across various regions around the world, including 12,461 who had suffered a heart attack. Researchers reported that a waist-to-hip (WHR) ratio is actually a better predictor of heart attack risk than the body-mass index, (BMI) the current standard.
This should surprise no one since the BMI, the medical standard used to measure overweight and obesity, is based on weight and height. It takes no notice of where the fat is located or how muscular a person is. So an athlete and a couch potato could have similar BMI scores.
WHR is a measurement tool that looks at the proportion of fat stored on your waist, hips and buttocks. Weight concentrated around the middle is often referred to as an “apple” shape; whereas, weight concentrated around your hips is referred to as a “pear” shape.
In many cases, people with extra weight located around the middle are at higher risk for heart disease and diabetes than those who carry weight around their hips and thighs.
But in all cases, carrying too much extra body fat anywhere and being physically inactive are always risk factors for both apple and pear-shaped people.
Researchers speculate that hormones or fat composition differences influence waist and hip size. While this may be partially true, our modern refined diet and inactivity are probably more relevant risk factors.
Let’s see what your waistline says about your health:
- While standing relaxed, measure the smallest area around your waist, (usually around the navel or belly button).
- Now measure the largest area around your hips. (hips are the widest part of your buttocks). Don’t pull the measuring tape tight around your waist or hips.
Now calculate your waist-hip ratio by dividing your waist circumference by your hip measurement. So a 30-inch waist and 36-inch hips, for instance, works out to a favorable 83 percent.
In general, women should have a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.8 or less, and men a ratio of 0.9 or less. For both men and women, a waist-hip ratio of 1.0 or higher is considered in the danger zone for undesirable health consequences.
If you’re at risk, I recommend a nutritious diet and boosting your level of physical activity to reduce overall body fat, including abdominal fat.
And remember, a little bit of hard work and dedication will work wonders where spot-reduction machines and other faulty techniques to get rid of body fat fail.