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There are a number of factors that can help you estimate your risk for health problems like heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes. I have discussed a number of these in this column and there is information throughout the Dr. Gourmet site in The health of it all… sidebars.
There are some risks that you can’t change, like your family history or gender. Lifestyle issues like exercise and diet are the factors that you have the most control over, and one factor in understanding your risk is not just in what you weigh. One indirect measure that is used is the Body Mass Index. This calculation is widely used in research and has proven a fairly accurate predictor of risk for illness.
Another measurement is the Waist to Hip Ratio or WHR. This is calculated by dividing the measurement around your waist by the measurement around your hips. If the result is over 1.0 you would be considered to be at higher risk for heart disease and other health problems. Researchers have called having a high WHR the “apple” shape because weight is centered in the abdomen. People who are apple shaped are at higher risk than those with their weight centered in their hips (also known as “pear” shaped).
Numerous studies have shown that high WHR to be a very accurate predictor of such illness. With my patients I prefer to discuss both of these measurements. Because it is possible to have a Body Mass Index that is high, but still be athletic and healthy, using the WHR can help clarify whether the extra weight is unhealthy or not.
The calculator below can help you calculate your WHR and compare it with the results of research on risk of disease.