Get your tape measure and calculator. A 2006 study shows that, at least for older people, "waist to hip ratio" is more important than how much you weigh. This study was large - almost 15,000 people 75 years of age or older. The researchers looked at the relationship between waist to hip ratio and Body Mass Index (BMI - how we measure weight for height) and how many people died over the next 6 years.
As it turned out, a high waist to hip ratio was more likely to be related to death than was BMI. In other words, it was "location, location, location" of fat that was most important - not how much you weigh.
So how do you measure your waist to hip ratio? You need a tape measure and a calculator. Here's how you do it:
➢ Measure your waist at the smallest point - usually at the naval or just above it
➢ Measure you hips at the widest, largest part
➢ Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement (Waist Measurement ÷ Hip Measurement)
➢ Men: .99 or lower is good
➢ Women: .90 or lower is good
The idea here is that your waist should be smaller than your hips. If your waist is bigger than your hips, than you may have too much fat concentrated around the middle part of your body - something known as "intra-abdominal obesity". This type of fat location is related to a higher chance of getting heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Men should have a waist to hip ratio slightly under a 1.0 - a .99 according to this study. Women should have a waist to hip ratio under 1.0 - a .90 or lower. That's according to this study - which was done in older people. But the idea here is that intra-abdominal fat is bad for your health.
If you're not in the healthy range, read about what you can do about it in our "Bust the Gut" segment!
Beth Kitchin, PhD, RD
UAB Department of Nutrition Sciences
Price GM, Uauy R, Breeze E, Bulpitt CJ, Fletcher AE. Weight, shape, and mortality risk in older persons: elevated waist-hip ratio, not high body mass index, is associated with a greater risk of death. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;84:449-460.