What is Waist to Height Ratio and why does it matter?

Waist to height ratio, or WHtR for short, measures how body fat is distributed throughout the body. Research has shown that a high WHtR value generally corresponds with a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease which can ultimately lead to a heart attack, stroke and/or death.

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the US, followed by cancer, accidents, chronic lower respiratory disease and stroke. So that’s two of the main causes of death that can be correlated with WHtR and that’s why it matters.

So what’s a “good” WHtR?

In simplest terms, a WHtR above 0.5 would generally put you in the higher risk category. Studies have found WHtR useful as it applies consistently regardless of sex or ethnicity with age only having a minor impact.

If you’re under 40, then the critical WHtR value is 0.5, if you’re between 40 and 50 then your critical value is between 0.5 and 0.6 and if you’re over 50 the critical value is 0.6 and above.

OK – now I know my WHtR, what does it mean?

The table below shows some broad categories for male and female WHtR

Weight Category Male WHtR Female WHtR Examples
Abnormally Slim <0.35 <0.35 Barbie Doll (0.25), Marilyn Monroe (0.3359)
Extremely Slim 0.35–0.43 0.35–0.42 Ken Doll (0.36)
Slender, Healthy 0.43–0.46 0.42–0.46 College Swimmers (Male 0.428, Female 0.424), Body Builder (0.458)
Normal, Healthy 0.46–0.53 0.46–0.49 General Healthy Cut Off at 0.5
Overweight 0.53–0.58 0.49–0.54 Increased Risk (Male 0.536, Female 0.541)
Obese 0.58–0.63 0.54–0.58 Substantially Increased Risk (0.582)
Highly Obese >0.63 >0.58

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