Waist to Height Ratio

Body mass index, or BMI, used to be the gold standard for health measurement. Today, the better measurement is considered the waist to height ratio, or W/Ht. Also known as WHtR or waist to stature radio (WSR), this measurement focuses on exactly what it sounds like: The number is obtained by comparing your waist circumference with your height. The best advice for the WHtR is to keep the waist circumference less than half of your height.

How to Determine Your WHtR

To measure the WHtR, you must measure your waist with a tape measure. Place the measure at your belly button – not at where your pants sit. The area around your belly button is usually actually wider than your ‘waist,’ which sits higher. Wrap the tape around gently but firmly, without pressing into the skin, and keep it smooth and flat. Record the amount of your waist size.

Keep in mind that you should never use pant sizes to determine waist size. That’s because the size on your pants is often much smaller than your actual size – many clothing companies do this to avoid offending customers.

Then, convert your height to inches, or centimeters, or whatever measurement you are using for your waist. You must use the same type of measurements in order for the ratio to work.

How to Interpret Waist to Height Ratio

Determining the WHtR is vitally important, as it indicates increased risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other issues that are related to abdominal obesity. The WHtR actually helps measure the distribution of body fat, and where the fat winds up on your body can determine what health problems you might have.

A healthy wait to height ratio is determined by dividing the waist measurement by the height.

If the result is equal to or less than 0.5, then you are considered in healthy, good shape and have no added risk of cardiovascular disease or the like later in life. However, if the number is higher than 0.5, you are at risk. How bad that risk might be depends upon just how high the number is.

Healthy Weight 50%

For instance, if you have a ratio of 50% you have an ideal waist-to-height ratio and have a low risk of weight-related disease but it is important to maintain your shape with a healthy diet and regular activity. The longer you can prevent central fat deposition, the longer and healthier your life will be.

Overweight 60%

However, you are already overweight and have some central fat deposits if your waist to height ratio is between 60-70%. This fat is stored as body fat and also visceral fat that deposits around your internal organs and in the membranes called the ‘omentum’ that line the abdominal cavity. This fat will have started to produce the hormone and chemicals which increase your risk of obesity-related and cardiovascular diseases.

Obese 70%

If your number is 70% or more, you are considered obese, and that can certainly lead to health issues, some of them quite serious. You may not have symptoms yet of disease such as blood vessel inflammation and hardening which lead to stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, hormonal changes causing infertility, pre-cancerous tissue change, and diabetes. It is important to stop the damage before it worsens – by the time you have symptoms, the damage is already severe.

Morbidly Obese 80% +

Finally, if your number is over 80%, you are considered morbidly obese. With a large abdominal girth you are extremely likely to be holding dangerous amounts of fat centrally, and be at high risk of disease associated with this. For most people, this means that you are at risk of extreme health issues, and need to lose weight immediately to avoid those problems.

BMI vs. Waist to Height Ratio

The body mass index (BMI) has been used for years to determine how healthy someone is. However, the BMI is fundamentally flawed. It calls only for a ratio of your weight to your height; for some people, that means that they will never be considered ‘healthy’ even if they really are. For example, someone who is a bodybuilder might weigh a great deal, and when compared to their height, the BMI might say they are obese or even morbidly obese – but they aren’t.

Therefore, the WHtR tends to be a better indicator of health than the BMI. This is because the way fat is distributed around the body matters a great deal. Abdominal fat leads to specific health problems, thanks to the fact that the fat collects around certain organs, like the liver, kidneys and heart.

In addition, the waist to height ratio is easy to understand. Figuring out the BMI often involves complicated charts; the ratio simply means figuring out two measurements. This also makes it much easier to track over time, as you gain or lose weight. Experts are now pushing for the medical world to adopt the WHtR as the definitive measure of health, and phase out the BMI.