How to Measure Your Waist-to-Height Ratio

Is This Measurement the New BMI?

man measuring weight circumference
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The waist-to-height ratio is a simple body measurement used to assess obesity and the risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It's a type of anthropometric measurement that is of particular interest to longevity researchers because of its ability to be used as a predictor of health conditions.

What Are Anthropometric Measurements?

Anthropometry is the study of the proportions of the human body in terms of the dimensions of bone, muscle and fat tissue.

Anthropometric measurements become more important as we age because of what they can reveal about an individual's health. For example, the greater amount of fat tissue a person has, the greater their risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, gallstones, cancer and other health issues.

The waist-to-height ratio isn't the only anthropometric measurement. Others include:

  • Height when standing
  • Height when sitting
  • Weight
  • Leg length
  • Waist circumference
  • Waist to hip ratio
  • Waist to height ratio
  • BMI (Body Mass Index)
  • Grip strength

How to Measure the Waist-to-Height Ratio

Your waist-to-height ratio is easy to calculate yourself. Use a measuring tape to measure the circumference of your waist: the most narrow part of your abdomen. Calculate the ratio using the following formula:

waist circumference (in centimeters) / height (in centimeters) = waist-to-height ratio

It's important that these measurements be made in centimeters.

A woman with a waist circumference of 34 inches (85 centimeters) who is 5 feet 5 inches tall (162.5 centimeters) has a waist-to-height ratio of approximately .52.

Importance of the Waist-to-Height Ratio

So the woman has a waist-to-height ratio of .52 centimeters. What does that mean? Is there an ideal measurement?

In studies published in journals like Obesity Reviews and Diabetic Medicine, researchers argue that a waist-to-height ratio of more than .5 centimeters indicates a greater risk of diabetes and visceral fat: the type of belly fat that surrounds the internal organs of the abdomen and increases the chances of metabolic syndrome and other illnesses.

Simply put, researchers recommend that keeping your waist circumference to less than half your height is a good benchmark for future health that will help you to avoid age-related illnesses like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and types of cancer.


Ashwell M, Gunn P, Gibson S. "Waist-to-height Ratio is a Better Screening Tool Than Waist Circumference and BMI for Adult Cardiometabolic Risk Factors: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis." Obes Rev 2012 Mar;13(3):275-86.

Xu Z, Qi X, Dahl AK, Xu W. "Waist-to-Height Ratio is the Best Indicator for Undiagnosed Type 2 Diabetes." Diabet Med 2013 Jun;30(6):e201-7.

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