Body Mass Index (BMI) is the most commonly used measure of overweight and obesity and has been used by healthcare professionals to assess the risk of heart disease. BMI takes into account a person’s height and weight to provide a generally reliable indication of whether a person is of healthy weight, overweight, or obese. According the World Health Organization (WHO), a person is considered to be overweight if his/her BMI is greater than or equal to 25 and a person is considered obese if his/her BMI is over 30.
There are two types of fat: Subcutaneous and Visceral. Subcutaneous is the fat you can pinch and grab. Visceral fat sits between the gut and organs and is more metabolically active than subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat is considered bad because it releases inflammatory chemicals into the blood that my cause clots and may cause blood pressure to rise. Subcutaneous fat, on the other hand, in the behind area and around the thighs may be protective.
Critics of using BMI as a primary measure of overweight argue that BMI lumps fat and muscles together and does not tell much about the composition of the body. A high BMI could mistakenly identify a person as overweight even if he/she has little fat but has a lot of muscles. On the flip side, a person who has a lot of belly fat but has a normal BMI, could be erroneously considered at low heart disease risk.
These issues surrounding the effectiveness of BMI and the facts about visceral fat raise the importance of a critical measurement that also helps in assessing health risks, which is the waist-to-hip ratio (WHR)
WHR factors in the waist circumference, where the visceral fat accumulates. It is generally agreed among healthcare professional that a high waist circumference (43.3 inches for women and 47.2 inches for men) is associated with a higher mortality risk, irrespective of whether the BMI is normal or high.
The main advantage of WHR, compared to BMI, is that it separates the increased risk of Visceral fat around the waist from the protective Subcutaneous fat in the hip and rear areas. WHR can identify a higher heart disease risk in skinny people with belly fat than in those who are considered obese.
Here is how you can determine your WHR:
Measure the circumference of your hips at the widest part of your buttocks
Measure your waist at the smaller circumference of your waist just above the belly button
Divide your waist measurement by your hip measurement
The table below gives a general idea about the relationship between WHR and the associated risk. It should be only used as a guideline to give you an idea if you should see a medical professional to assess whether you are at risk.
Male Female Risk Level
0.95 or below 0.80 or below Low
0.96 to 1.0 0.81 to 0.85 Moderate
1.0 to 1.25 0.85 to 1.00 High
1.25 to 1.50 1.00 to 1.25 Very High
1.50 to 1.75 1.25 to 1.50 Very Very High
1.75 to 2.0 1.50 to 1.75 Extremely High
Florida Aesthetics in Brandon offers a complete body composition test. Please call us at 813 684-5880, to schedule your appointment.