Waist Hip Ratio

Waist-to-Hip Ratio: Your Essential Guide

Waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) is the ratio of the circumference of the waist to that of the hips.

The ideal WHR is said to be 0.85 for women and 0.9 for men. A high WHR has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

This article will explain why waist-to-hip is an important indicator of disease risk, as well as overall health, and how to calculate your current WHR ratio.

What is the waist-to-hip ratio?

The waist-to-hip ratio is a comparison of your waist size versus your hip size.

More specifically, it’s your waist measurement divided into your hip measurement. For example, if my hip is 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.

Does the waist-hip ratio matter?

Yes, the waist-hip ratio is a proven indicator of chronic disease risk.

Research has shown 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 the waist-hip ratio and the 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.

The analysis revealed that for each extra centimeter you carry around your waist, you have a 2% increased risk of cardiovascular events.

The World Health Organization also found that the waist-to-hip ratio is a valid predictor of future disease risk. They deemed waist-hip ratio and body mass index (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 that 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.

How to calculate the waist-to-hip ratio?

perfect waist-to-hip ratio

To calculate your waist-to-hip ratio, you need two values:

1. Measure your waist. You can find your waist by leaning sideways and feeling 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 your current waist-hip ratio!

For example: If your waist is 30 inches around and your hips are 38 inches around, your current waist-hip ratio is 30 ÷ 38 = 0.79.

What is a good waist-to-hip ratio?

Now you have your results from the waist-to-hip ratio calculator. Do you fall within healthy limits?

The ideal waist-to-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 an 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 the 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.

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!

1. Diet

Research shows that eating a diet low in carbs 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 many health benefits and comes in both caffeinated and decaffeinated versions.

2. Exercise

Want to lose abdominal fat? Make sure you combine 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.

3. Lifestyle

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 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.

Summary

The waist-to-hip ratio has been shown to be a valid indicator of the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

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.