Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Is Your Waist Size a Better Health Indicator than BMI?

Reported in the news last week, we were told scientists have discovered the size of our waist is a better indicator of cardiovascular health than BMI.

This is old news! This has been known for years and was reported in the mid-1990s. Then in 2003, researchers were measuring the value of the waist to height ratio as a predictor of metabolic risk. Many others have reported the same.

In a way this is good news because it’s really easy measuring your waist.

The best way to measure your waist:
  1. Find the top of your hip bone and the bottom of your ribs.
  2. Breathe out normally (no sneaky breathing in)!
  3. Place the tape measure midway between these points and wrap it around your waist.
  4. Check your measurement.
Alternatively, you can enter your measurements in this online ‘waist to height ratio’ calculator and the calculations is done for you.

Like the BMI which can be misleading as it doesn’t take into account muscle mass when calculating weight (muscle = healthier than fat), the waist to height ratio can also provide misleading results.

Note: Waist circumference is less accurate in some situations, including pregnancy, medical conditions where there is distension of the abdomen, and for certain groups such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, South Asian, Chinese and Japanese adults. Waist measurements should only be used for adults to check their risk of developing a chronic disease. (Heart Foundation). 

Personally, I prefer to use the waist to hip ratio as a guide to general cardiovascular health. Again, it’s really easy to use. Just measure your waist as described above, then measure your hips. Divide the waist measurement by the height measurement to get the ratio.

You can use metric or imperial, just make sure you use your chosen measure for both waist and hip measurement.

Waist to Hip Ratio Chart

Health Risk (based on Waist/Height Ratio Only)
0.95 or below
0.80 or below
Low Risk
0.96 to 1.0
0.81 to 0.85
Moderate Risk
High Risk


Waist = 26 inches, Hip = 34 inches.
26 / 34 = 0.76 = (Healthy ratio for a female)


Waist = 37in, Hip = 44 inches
37 / 64 = 0.84 (Moderate risk for a female)

Alternatively, here's an online calculator for your waist to hip ratio.

Finally, the EASIEST way to work out whether you are carrying too much weight around the middle – simply try to keep your waist measurement to no more than half your height!

So for a 5’3” (1.59cm) person, keep the waist size below half the height (79.5cm) or just under 31.5 inches.

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