Ever talked to a woman who’s yearning for that famed hourglass shape? You may have rolled your eyes at first, but it turns out that whittling your waist is good for more than just vanity! In recent years, researchers have grown increasingly interested in waist hip ratio as an indicator of disease risk, as well as overall health. Here’s a little more about waist hip ratio and its importance, how to calculate your current ratio!
Waist Hip Ratio Fast Facts
Here are four fast facts that you should know about waist hip ratio. While it’s easy to focus almost-entirely on weight loss with phentermine, make sure you take note of your measurements too! It’s amazing to see how much your hips, waist and other body parts change, even before the scale shows any major changes.
1. What is waist hip ratio?
Waist hip ratio is simply a comparison of your waist size versus hip size. More specifically, it’s your waist measurement divided into your hip measurement. For example, if my hip are 35 inches around (at the widest area) and my waist is 28 inches around at the narrowest part, my waist hip ratio would be 28 ÷ 35 = 0.80.
A high waist hip ratio indicates excess fat around your belly. A low waist hip ratio indicates more fat in your hips and thighs. Someone with a high waist to hip ratio is often called ”apple-shaped”, while someone with a low waist to hip ratio is usually classified as “pear shaped”. Medically speaking, it’s preferable to be pear-shaped.
2. Does waist hip ratio matter?
Yes, waist hip ratio is a proven indicator of chronic disease risk!
We’re accustomed to doctors measuring height, weight, blood pressure and maybe even drawing blood as a means to determining disease risk. But does your doctor ever measure your waist? Research shows that this simple dimension, and specifically this value in relation to your hip circumference, proves a valuable tool.
Research shows that even small increases in waist circumference (WC) and waist hip ratio (WHR) affect long-term risk for cardiovascular disease and events. A 2007 analysis by de Koning et. al is one of the most prominent papers on this topic. De Koning and his team reviewed 15 studies with over 258,000 combined participants to assess the link between waist hip ratio and relative risk of fatal or non-fatal cardiovascular events over time. They wanted to know if having a higher WC and WHR increased adults’ risk of heart attack, coronary blockages or stroke. This risk was evaluated independent of other conditions like high cholesterol or diabetes, which are usually associated both with more abdominal fat and with higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
The analysis revealed that for each extra centimeter you carry around your waist, you have a 2% increased risk of cardiovascular events. Moreover, for each 0.01 point increase in waist hip ratio, risk of future cardiovascular events increases by 5%. Both of these findings were independent of age and other individual characteristics.
The World Health Organization also found that waist to hip ratio is a valid predictor of future disease risk. They deemed waist hip ratio and BMI as similarly-accurate predictors of cardiovascular disease, with a combination of high BMI and high waist hip ratio presenting the most serious risk. Another study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition claims waist hip ratio is actually a superior predictor, as compared to BMI, in older populations. This latter conclusion is supported by another study found that having a high waist to hip ratio (i.e. a big belly) is actually more detrimental to health than having a higher BMI.
So, what do these findings mean for you?
It means that losing even small an inch or two off your waist can translate in major health benefits! Sometimes it can be frustrating when you’re losing inches, but the scale isn’t budging. This research shows that there are LOTS of benefits in getting slimmer, even if that doesn’t mean getting lighter!
3. Is there a perfect waist to hip ratio?
No. There’s no perfect waist to hip ratio, but there are some guidelines about what’s healthy.
Exact recommendations vary between organizations, but they’re all in the same ballpark. The most commonly cited valued are those published by the World Health Organization. This group of global experts determined that a WHR ≥ 0.85 in women, or a WHR ≥ 0.90 in men, is associated with increased risk of chronic disease and poor health outcomes.
It is normal for men to have a slightly higher waist hip ratio since they have a more straight shape. The naturally curvy shape of women is what dictates the lower waist to hip ratio guidelines. Due to hormonal differences, pre-menopausal women tend to accumulate more fat in their hips and thighs. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to accumulate that same fat around their midsection. The different guidelines are an attempt to accommodate this disparity.
4. What can I do to improve my waist hip ratio?
The healthiest way to improve waist to hip ratio is to lose belly fat. As any medical expert will tell you, there is no such thing as “targeted weight loss” where you only lose weight in your tummy, hips or face. You can however, focus on overall weight loss and adopt healthy habits that discourage fat accumulation around your waist. The three pillars of weight loss are: diet, exercise and lifestyle – let’s talk about those!
Research shows that eating a diet low in carbs in and high in protein is associated with lower levels of abdominal fat. Aim to limit simple carbs (white bread, rice and pasta) and sweets, and instead favor healthy protein sources like fatty fish (e.g. salmon), lean meats and plain yogurt. Also take care that you’re not drinking empty calories in the form of soda, flavored drinks or juice. Not a huge fan of plain water? Try drinking unsweetened green tea to stay hydrated! It has lots of health benefits and comes in both caffeinated and decaffeinated versions.
Want to lose abdominal fat? Make sure you’re combining both cardio and strength training in your exercise plans. Studies show that cardio is highly effective for losing belly fat. Current guidelines suggest you should aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity (e.g. walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (e.g. running) each week. However, experts agree that most people need to up this amount when they are actively trying to lose weight.
Combine cardio with 2-3 sessions of strength training each week for best results. Research suggests that weight lifting weights helps reduce belly fat. Still – the combination of cardio and strength training seems to emerge as the most effective technique for trimming belly fat.
If you’re working hard in the gym and at the table, don’t undermine your weight loss efforts with your lifestyle choices. Studies show that people who get more than 7 hours of a sleep a night gain significantly less weight than those who sleep less than 5 hours on average.
The stress hormone- cortisol – also promotes fat storage. Practice stress-relief techniques like meditation, journaling or listening to music if you feel the stress rising.
Calculate Waist to Hip Ratio
Wondering what your waist hip ratio is right now? Grab a tape measure and a calculator to find out!
You’ll need two values:
1. Measure your waist. You can find your waist by leaning sideways and feeling for where your torso bends. This natural crease is your waist. Wrap the tape measure around your waist so it is snug, but not tight. Relax your core – don’t suck in your stomach or slouch. Take this measurement and record the number.
2. Measure your hips. Your hip measurement should be taken at the hip joint. The tape measure should go around the largest part of your hips/buttocks to get the most accurate measurement. Same rule as above: the tape measure should be snug, but not pulled tight. Write down this number.
When you have both of these values, divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement. The result is the your current waist hip ratio!
For example: If your waist is 30 inches around and hips are 38 inches around, your current waist hip ratio is 30 ÷ 38 = 0.79.
Waist to Hip Ratio Results
Now you have your results from the waist to hip ratio calculator. Do you fall within healthy limits?
The ideal waist hip ratio for women is less than 0.85. In men, the goal for men is a ratio less than 0.90. In both men and women, a waist to hip ratio greater than those values is associated with increased risk of weight-related disease. This is because a higher waist hip ratio greater indicates excess accumulation of fat around the abdomen and organs located there.
Health experts also cite the importance of absolute waist circumference, independent of waist to hip ratio. If your waist circumference is too big, your risk of weight-related disease increases – even if your hips are still larger. For that reason, the NHLBI & AHA published guidelines about waist circumference as well. Their conclusion? A waist size of >35 inches as a woman or >40 inches as a man puts you at increased risk for chronic disease, regardless of waist hip ratio.
If your current waist hip ratio is greater than 0.85 (F) or 0.90 (M), consider incorporating healthy lifestyle changes like portion control and regular exercise to shed some of the extra belly fat. If you’ve already tried losing weight on your own and you’re still struggling, consider talking to your doctor about phentermine or other prescription appetite suppressants. These medications can help jump start your weight loss while you practice healthier habits.
Does your doctor measure your waist? Or do you measure your waist at home? What do you think of waist hip ratio as a measure of health? Let us know in the comments section below!