Monday, August 17, 2015

Waist-Hip Ratio: Biomarker of Health

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski.
Some biomarkers of longevity and general health require a doctor, some lab work, and some technical analysis.

Waiste-Hip Ratio (WHR) is one of the most straightforward biomarkers.

Basically, if you are shaped like a pear, you're OK. But if you are shaped like an apple, you're in trouble. 

[This post is part of a series on biomarkers of health and longevity.

Watching your waistline alone does have some value.

According to a Harvard Medical School post summarizing the research on WHR, women have an increased risk of serious health problems if their waist is 40 inches or more.  

Men have an increased risk if their waist is 35 inches or more.

Dr. Len Kravitz of the University of New Mexico cites research that lowers the threshold or risk by several inches:
"A waist circumference >35 inches (88 cm) in women and >40 inches (102 cm) in men is associated with higher cardiometabolic risk (Ness-Abramof and Apovian, 2008)."

Arguing over a few inches is probably not worth the time spent away from the gym.

BMI or waist circumference alone is not as accurate a marker as the ratio between the waist circumference and the hips. Belly fat is far more accurate predictor of health problems than having substantial hips and/or thighs.

Note: This post is to raise awareness only. It does not offer medical advice. If you have concerns about your weight, please see a licensed medical professional. 

If you already own a measuring tape, you have a cheap and easy method for assessing your health risks. No co-pays or lab fees are necessary for this biomarker!

There several online calculators that walk you through this Waist-to-Hip Ratio process.  Here's just one.

1. Measure the circumference of your waist. (Mine measures 28 inches.)

2. Measure the circumference of your hips. (Mine measure 34 inches.)

3. Divide waist by hips or W/H (i.e., 28/34)

4. Round up to the nearest 100th of a decimal point. (.74).

5. Consult a chart.

For example, the Visual MD entry for Waist-Hip Ratio states that "a healthy WHR is 0.90 or less for men, and 0.80 or less for women."  I like this chart because it's simple and interactive.

By looking at my WHR and comparing it to the above Visual MD chard, I fear that my ratio might get out of control.  With just a little inactivity and a few too many baked goods, my WHR might climb from .74 up to the danger zone of .80 during the upcoming holiday season.

Adopting a new fitness regime might be in order.

Maybe I'll take up belly dancing?

Photo by David McSpadden.

Biomarkers for Longevity and Health
HbA1c: Biomarker of Longevity and Health


  1. I'm too scared to measure mine! I'm fairly tall and straight up and down so I don't know if that is good or bad. Interesting to think about and I'll probably give in and measure myself to find out (curiosity killed the cat) ~ Leanne

    1. The scale and the tape measure. I have a love-hate relationship with them both. All my best to you, Leanne.

  2. Well thanks Karen, I am a ticking time bomb!

    1. What do doctors and researchers really know? They describe patterns in groups of 500,000 people, but any individual is a statistical anomaly. Hooray for all the unique qualities you possess and that can't be captured with data points.

  3. I took a belly dancing class for real about 5 years ago. Those gals actually have pretty big bellies as opposed to the ones you see on magazine covers. And while it's beautiful activity it is crazy hard!....and totally worth it!

    1. That's really interesting to hear about your experience. It looks fun, but RESPECT for the difficult technique involved. It's probably great for mind, body and spirit. Hooray for belly dancers.

  4. I have belly danced for years, it is a lot of fun and great exercise. But my midsection is not slim and trim. Probably too much food. The vigorous exercise makes me hungry!

  5. I've always had a tummy, and my ratio is .82. I exercise as much as I can and eat healthy 90% of the time. Ultimately, I'm more concerned with the quality of my life than by how long I live.