Belly fat: A general predictor of health

For a long and healthy life keep your waist to height ratio at or below 50%

For a long and healthy life keep your waist to height ratio at or below 50%

For many years healthcare providers have used Body Mass Index or BMI to help calculate an optimal weight range for their patients. BMI is calculated by recording a persons weight in kilograms and dividing it by their height in centimeters squared. The body mass index does a good job of describing general fat composition in the body but does a poor job of evaluating where that fat is distributed. The BMI formula will often categorize athletic muscular men as obese when casual observation will tell you that they are clearly not obese. The formula for BMI was calculated for Caucasians and has decreased correlation for other ethnic groups. BMI is also fairly unreliable in growing children.

We now know that people who carry increased fat around the abdomen are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes. When we refer to belly fat we are not just addressing the layer of fat between the skin and the abdominal muscles. We also have to take into account what is known as visceral fat. Visceral fat is stored within the abdominal cavity and around our important organs. 

Researchers are now encouraging healthcare providers and patients to use a waist to height ratio when evaluating general health instead of BMI. This formula is an accurate predictor of the amount of belly fat that a person has at a specific point in time. America is an ever expanding nation and using the height to weight ratio can serve as a real wake up call. I would encourage you to take some time today and measure your waist to height ratio. If you have children then tonight is a perfect time to do this activity as a family and then set goals together if change is necessary.

To calculate your waist to height ratio record your waist circumference in inches as measured one inch above the navel/bellybutton and then divide by your height in inches. For instance a person who has a waist circumference of 36 inches and is 5' 6" or 66" tall would have a waist to height ratio of 55%. When you finish with your measurements consult the table below.

Female

  • Ratio less than 42%: underweight
  • Ratio 42% to 48%: healthy weight
  • Ratio 49% to 57%: overweight
  • Ratio over 58%: obese

Male

  • Ratio less than 43%: underweight
  • Ratio 43% to 52%: healthy weight
  • Ratio 53% to 62%: overweight
  • Ratio over 63%: obese

The bottom line and the take home point of this post is you should keep your waist to height ratio at or below 50%. Your body will thank you and so will your loved who are counting on you to be there for many years to come. If you find that you are significantly above or below these values then it is time to talk to your healthcare providers about an immediate strategy to make some changes.