What is Waist-to-Hip Ratio and Why Does it Matter?

Your waist-to-hip ratio is a measurement of the circumference of your waist divided by the circumference of your hips. It is a measurement used by healthcare professionals to gain a wider picture of an individual’s health. 

Unlike your body mass index (BMI), which provides information about your total body weight, the waist-to-hip ratio informs you of your weight distribution.

Waist-to-Hip Ratio Chart

The healthy waist-to-hip ratio for men and women is slightly different. The table below shows the health risks associated with different waist-to-hip measurements for men and women. 

Health Risk Men Women
Low < 0.95 < 0.8
Moderate 0.96 – 1.0 0.81 – 0.85
High > 1.0 > 0.85

How to Measure Your Waist-to-Hip Ratio

You can use a waist-to-hip ratio calculator to determine whether your waist-to-hip ratio is within a healthy range or not. To use an online calculator, you’ll need to take your waist and hip measurements.

Here’s how you can accurately take your measurements:

  1. Stand up straight and breathe out normally.
  2. Wrap the tape measure around the smallest part of your waist, followed by the widest part of your hips.
  3. Calculate the waist-to-hip ratio by dividing your waist measurement by your hip measurement.

Why is Waist-to-Hip Ratio Important?

Numerous studies have shown the link between waist-to-hip ratio and disease. It’s a simple measurement that can tell you a lot about the state of your health and your risk of disease. The American Diabetes Association suggests that the waist-to-hip ratio is a better indicator of your risk of cardiovascular disease than BMI.

If you carry more weight around your waist than your hips, you may have an increased risk of certain health conditions. A recent study showed that those who carried more weight around the midsection of their body or at a high risk of cardiovascular disease and type two diabetes, even if their BMI is within a healthy range.

Studies also show that the waist-to-hip ratio is a great predictor of hypertension (high blood pressure) and death caused by heart failure. However, it’s important to note that research doesn’t currently suggest a direct link between a high waist-to-hip ratio and an increased risk of heart failure.

Maintaining a Healthy Waist-to-Hip Ratio

Research confirms that decreasing your waist-to-hip ratio to a healthy level can improve your disease markers, regardless of your age or gender.

There are certain conditions that can increase central adiposity (weight gain around your abdomen), including

  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • Polycystic ovarian disease (PCOS)
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Excess psychological health
  • Binge eating disorder (BED)

If you’re trying to lose weight to decrease your hip-to-waist ratio, try the following:

  • Increase your physical activity
  • Reduce your food intake and switch to healthier snacks
  • Improve your sleep hygiene
  • Manage your chronic medical conditions

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