Waist-to-Hip Ratio (WHR): Definition and Examples

waist to hip ration definition
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Definition: Waist to hip ratio is a measurement that compares the size of your waist in inches to the size of your hips in inches. Risk for developing heart disease can be estimated using your waist to hip ratio.

Also Known As: WHR, waist-to-hip circumference ratio, waist hip ratio

Examples: A waist-to-hip ratio of 0.8 or under for women and 0.9 and under for men is considered healthy. A WHR of 1.0 or over may indicate a higher than normal risk of developing heart disease.

What Is Waist to Hip Ratio?

There are many different ways that your doctor might estimate your risk for cardiovascular disease and other illnesses. Waist to hip ratio is one of them. Calculating waist to hip ratio is easy to do, takes very little time and doesn't cost anything. In addition, if you change WHR to improve your health, you can easily track your progress as you slim down.

How to Calculate Waist to Hip Ratio

Your doctor or nurse might calculate WHR at your office appointment, but you can easily measure it at home. You'll need a flexible tape measure and a calculator.

Start by making sure that you are not wearing any bulky clothing. Remove any sweaters, bulky sweatshirts or slacks. Then take a measurement of your waist circumference

Wrap the tape measure around the widest part of your stomach, across your belly button. The tape measure should rest gently on your skin. Once the tape measure is positioned correctly, breathe in gently and then take the measurement on the exhale.

Next you'll take a hip measurement. Stand with your feet directly beneath your hips and wrap the tape around the widest part of your hips and buttocks. Note the measurement in inches.

Now calculate your waist to hip ratio. Divide your waist size by your hip size to get your waist to hip ratio.  According to the National Institutes of Health, waist-to-hip ratio greater than 1.0 is indicative of a higher than normal risk of developing heart disease.

A healthy WHR for women is under .80 and a healthy WHR for men is .90 or less.

Waist to Hip Ratio Example

To get a better idea of how your waist to hip ratio works, use this example. 

Waist to Hip Ratio Example: Sarah

  • Waist measurement - 30 inches
  • Hip measurement - 38 inches
  • 30 (waist measurement) / 38 (hip measurement) = .78

Sarah has a WHR that falls in the normal range.

If Sarah gains abdominal fat, her WHR will change. This might be Sarah's profile after gaining weight:

  • Waist measurement - 39 inches
  • Hip measurement - 38 inches
  • 39 (waist measurement) / 38 (hip measurement) = 1.02

Sarah's weight gain has now put her in a higher risk category for conditions like heart disease. But she can change her risk profile by losing weight. If she slims down, watch how her WHR numbers change as well.

  • Waist measurement - 32 inches
  • Hip measurement - 38 inches
  • 32 (waist measurement) / 38 (hip measurement) = .84

Even though Sarah's waist circumference is larger than when she started, she still brought her waist to hip ratio closer to a healthy range with weight loss.

Your waist size, your hip circumference  and waist to hip ratio do not cause disease and they don't indicate that you necessarily will get heart disease or any other illness. The measurements are simply guidelines that medical professionals use to predict your possible risk of disease. You can use the numbers at home to motivate and inspire weight loss for healthy living.

*Edited by Malia Frey, About.com Weight Loss Expert

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