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How to Measure Waist to Hip Ratio

by Alexandra Parren
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How to Measure Waist to Hip Ratio

Most people will just jump on the scales to figure out if they’re overweight, but is the number on the scales a reliable judge? Could waist to hip ratio be a more effective tool for monitoring our levels of fat?

Why is waist to hip ratio important?

A new study to be published in the British Medical Journal suggested that a better indicator of obesity would be to determine your waist to hip ratio (WHR). Scientists believe it is a better indicator than BMI because the WHR method assesses fat distribution while BMI or scales alone do not. People who carry fat around the waist and upper abdomen are at greater risk of heart attack than people who carry weight around their thighs and hips.

Fat isn’t just stored on the outside of our bodies. In fact, we have two main stores of fat:

Subcutaneous Fat

Subcutaneous fat is the kind of fat you can see, it’s the fat that causes cellulite and ‘jiggly’ bits.

Visceral Fat

Visceral fat is the fat you don’t see. Visceral fat lies deep beneath the abdomen, lining your organs. This type of fat is the most unhealthy and dangerous. Scarily, you may appear skinny, but have high levels of visceral fat if you have an unhealthy diet and an inactive lifestyle.

Waist to hip ratio is important as it is used as a guideline measure of visceral fat.

Health Risks Of Visceral Fat

Visceral fat is hidden deep within the abdomen and surrounds organs like the liver and insulin-generating pancreas. High levels of visceral fat can lead to:

  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Breast Cancer
  • Colo-rectal Cancer
  • Alzheimer's Disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Stroke
  • High Cholesterol
  • Dementia
  • Coronary Artery Disease
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Sleep Apnea: Increased visceral fat has been associated with trouble sleeping, since deep abdominal fat can restrict the movement of the diaphragm and limit lung expansion.

With this extensive list of health risks, it’s vital to keep watch of levels of visceral fat.

Measuring Visceral fat

Whilst your most accurate visceral fat measurements are CT scans or bioelectrical impedance machines which cost a small fortune, waist to hip ratio can be a useful guideline. As the measurement also takes subcutaneous fat into consideration it's not an exclusive measurement, but it is a good basic measure.

How to measure hip to waist ratio:

You will need a tape measure and a calculator (or impressive mental maths skills).

  1. Measure the smallest part of your waist in inches (usually just above your belly button).
  2. Measure the widest part of your hips in inches  (usually round the middle of your bum).
  3. Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement.






0.95 +





0.90 & below

0.85 & below


Source: Health Status, McMaster University

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